Letter | Published:

Bacteria accumulate silver during leaching of sulphide ore minerals

Nature volume 296, pages 642643 (15 April 1982) | Download Citation



Silver is extremely toxic to a wide range of bacteria1–5, and has even been used in solution to control bacterial growth2. In an investigation of the oxidation of several sulphide minerals containing traces of silver by a mixed culture of Thiobadllus ferroxidans and Thiobacillus thiooxidans, it was noted that the bacteria accumulated silver. I report here that careful collection of most of the cells from such experiments yields a silver concentrate, while the silver attached to the cells remaining in contact with leach residues is readily recovered by a conventional cyanidation technique. These results suggest that the bacterial leaching of valuable and non-valuable sulphide minerals in order to release atomically bound silver, and possibly gold, may be used as part of a recovery process for these elements.

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  1. 1.

    , & Wat. Res. 6, 1589–1598 (1972).

  2. 2.

    in Microorganisms and Minerals (ed. Weinberg, E. D.) 387–419 (Marcel Dekker, New York, 1977).

  3. 3.

    & in Metallurgical Applications of Bacterial Leaching and Related Microbiological Phenomena (eds Murr, L. E., Torma, W. E. & Brierly, J. A.) 83–102 (Academic, New York, 1978).

  4. 4.

    & Biochemical Bioengng 18, 1161–1165 (1976).

  5. 5.

    & Can. J. Microbiol. 20, 883–889 (1974).

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  1. Department of Mineral Exploitation, University College, Cardiff, Newport Road, Cardiff CF2 1TA, UK

    • F. D. Pooley


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