The effect of Ca–Fe–As coatings on microbial leaching of metals in arsenic bearing mine waste

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Globally arsenic (As) is a ubiquitous trace element derived from the natural weathering of As-bearing rock. With the onset of reducing conditions, the prevalence of aqueous As(III) may be intensified through biotic and abiotic processes. Here we evaluate the stability of arsenic bearing Ca–Fe hydroxide phases collected from exposed tailings at Ketza River mine, Yukon, Canada, during the reductive dissolution of both acid treated and untreated samples by Shewanella putrefaciens 200R and Shewanella sp. ANA-3. Samples were acid treated in order to remove Ca–Fe oxide coatings and evaluate the influence of these coatings on the rates of microbial Fe(III) and As(V) reduction. Environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) micrographs of the solid phase show significant differences in the chemistry and physical morphology of the material by the bacteria over time and are especially evident in the acid treated samples. Moreover, while solution chemistry showed similar As(III) respiration rates of the inoculated acid treated samples for both ANA3 and 200R at ~ 1.1 × 10−6 μM·s− 1·m− 2, the Fe(II) respiration rates differed at 1.4 × 10− 7 and 9.5 × 10− 8 μM·s− 1·m−2 respectively, thus suggesting strain specific metal reduction metabolic pathways Additionally, the enhanced metal reduction observed in the acid treated inoculated samples suggests that the presence of the Ca–Fe hydroxide phase in the untreated samples acted as a barrier, inhibiting the bacteria from accessing the metals. This has implications for increased mobilization of metals by metal reducing bacteria within areas of increased acidity, such as acid mine drainage sites and industrial tailings ponds that can come into contact with surface and ground water sources.

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