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Comment Processing & Handling

Improved bioleaching for nickel recovery

By Paul Grad |

An Indian team from the Institute of Minerals & Materials Technology (www.immt.res.in), and Utkal University (both Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India; www.utkal-university.org) has achieved significant improvement in the recovery of nickel from lateritic ore by using oxalic acid produced by the fungus Aspergillus niger supplemented with manganese. Prior to leaching, thermal pre-treatment (at 600°C for 5 h) changes the mineral structure and brings the mineral phase transformation by dehydroxylation of the goethite matrix in raw chromite overburden. Pre-treatment develops micropores and cracks and converts the overburden into a mesoporous structure, which in turn is more susceptible to leaching agents. Oxalic acid acts as a metal chelating agent. It can be obtained synthetically, but the most convenient way is metabolites secreted by several fungi under specific conditions. Fungal micelle grows on the surface of ore particles. Thus, in the case of a fungal bioleaching system, the concentration of oxalic acid at the interface of ore and fungal micelle is much higher than the total concentration of oxalic acid in the bulk medium, thus making it more efficient than chemical leaching. Nickel recovery from pre-treated chromite overburden…
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