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Name: Brian
Status: Educator
Age: 50s
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Question:
How are bacteria being used in industrial mining, especially for copper?



Replies:
You'll find the answer at

http://www.accessexcellence.org/AB/IWT/Biomining.html

from which this is a fragment:

Thiobacillus ferooxidans, which is naturally present in certain sulfur-containing materials, gets energy by oxidizing inorganic materials, such as copper sulfide minerals. This process releases acid and an oxidizing solution of ferric ions, which can wash out metals from crude ore. Poor quality copper ore, which is bound up in a sulfide matrix, is dumped outside a mine and treated with sulfuric acid to encourage the growth of T. ferooxidans. As the bacteria chew up the ore, copper is released and collected in solution. The sulfuric acid is recycled.

You can also check the display on applied bacteriology in the Virtual Museum of Bacteria at www.bacteriamuseum.org/wabacteria/applied.shtml

Trudy Wassenaar
Curator of the VMB



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