Prokaryotic dissolution of sulfide minerals

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Profile Display Name:

Sarah Jones

E-mail Address:

sarah.jones.15@ucl.ac.uk

Start Year

2015 (Cohort 2)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Prokaryotic dissolution of sulfide minerals

Research Theme

Pan-disciplinary

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution

BBK

Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution

BBK

Additional supervisor(s)

Andy Carter (BBK),

Abstract

This project focuses on learning about the mechanisms behind the dissolution of two sulfide minerals, stibnite (Sb2S3) and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), as their breakdown can release potentially toxic elements into water courses, especially in areas where mining has taken place. Further, as stibnite and chalcopyrite are the main ores of antimony and copper, any improved understanding has the potential to benefit the economic and environmental viability of mineral extraction.

Whilst it is known that impurities can affect mineral dissolution rate, relatively little is known about impurities in stibnite. This project has compiled the first extensive global database of the characteristics and impurities of stibnite. This required collecting samples from around the world and analysing them using a range of geochemical techniques including XRD, EDS, WDS, La-ICP-MS, µXRF and µXANES.

Of particular interest is improving our understanding of the roles microorganisms play in the breakdown of chalcopyrite and stibnite. To this end, RNA and DNA sequencing techniques have been used to establish which bacteria are most abundant and which genes are being differentially expressed at different stages in the dissolution of these minerals. A benefit of this work is that it could help with the design of commercial ore extraction methods centred on microbes, a process known as bioleaching.

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