Impact of microbial communities from tropical soils on the mobilization of trace metals during dissolution of cinnabar ore

Clarisse Balland-Bolou-Bi , Benjamin Turc , Vanessa Alphonse , Noureddine Bousserrhine


Received January 06, 2016,Revised September 19, 2016, Accepted October 08, 2016, Available online October 19, 2016

Volume 29,2017,Pages 122-130

Biodissolution experiments on cinnabar ore (mercury sulphide and other sulphide minerals, such as pyrite) were performed with microorganisms extracted directly from soil. These experiments were carried out in closed systems under aerobic and anaerobic conditions with 2 different soils sampled in French Guyana. The two main objectives of this study were (1) to quantify the ability of microorganisms to mobilize metals (Fe, Al, Hg) during the dissolution of cinnabar ore, and (2) to identify the links between the type and chemical properties of soils, environmental parameters such as season and the strategies developed by indigenous microorganisms extracted from tropical natural soils to mobilize metals. Results indicate that microbial communities extracted directly from various soils are able to (1) survive in the presence of cinnabar ore, as indicated by consumption of carbon sources and, (2) leach Hg from cinnabar in oxic and anoxic dissolution experiments via the acidification of the medium and the production of low molecular mass organic acids (LMMOAs). The dissolution rate of cinnabar in aerobic conditions with microbial communities ranged from 4.8 × 10− 4 to 2.6 × 10− 3 μmol/m2/day and was independent of the metabolites released by the microorganisms. In addition, these results suggest an indirect action by the microorganisms in the cinnabar dissolution. Additionally, because iron is a key element in the dynamics of Hg, microbes were stimulated by the presence of this metal, and microbes released LMMOAs that leached iron from iron-bearing minerals, such as pyrite and oxy-hydroxide of iron, in the mixed cinnabar ore.

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