Broman E, Jawad A, Wu X, Christel S, Ni G, Lopez-Fernandez M, Sundkvist JE, Dopson M
Biodegradation 28 (4) 287-301 [2017-08-00; online 2017-06-02]
Wastewaters generated during mining and processing of metal sulfide ores are often acidic (pH < 3) and can contain significant concentrations of nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium from nitrogen based explosives. In addition, wastewaters from sulfide ore treatment plants and tailings ponds typically contain large amounts of inorganic sulfur compounds, such as thiosulfate and tetrathionate. Release of these wastewaters can lead to environmental acidification as well as an increase in nutrients (eutrophication) and compounds that are potentially toxic to humans and animals. Waters from cyanidation plants for gold extraction will often conjointly include toxic, sulfur containing thiocyanate. More stringent regulatory limits on the release of mining wastes containing compounds such as inorganic sulfur compounds, nitrate, and thiocyanate, along the need to increase production from sulfide mineral mining calls for low cost techniques to remove these pollutants under ambient temperatures (approximately 8 °C). In this study, we used both aerobic and anaerobic continuous cultures to successfully couple inorganic sulfur compound (i.e. thiosulfate and thiocyanate) oxidation for the removal of nitrogenous compounds under neutral to acidic pH at the low temperatures typical for boreal climates. Furthermore, the development of the respective microbial communities was identified over time by DNA sequencing, and found to contain a consortium including populations aligning within Flavobacterium, Thiobacillus, and Comamonadaceae lineages. This is the first study to remediate mining waste waters by coupling autotrophic thiocyanate oxidation to nitrate reduction at low temperatures and acidic pH by means of an identified microbial community.