Depression of pyrite flotation by yeast and bacteria

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Microorganisms, such as the bacteria Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, have been reported to depress pyrite flotation (Elzeky and Attia, 1987; Atkins, 1990). However, the dependence of the depression on the type of organism or on suspension pH is still being determined. In this study, the relative effectiveness of various microorganisms (chemolithotrophic bacteria, chemoorganotrophic bacteria and yeast) over the pH range of 2 to 12 was studied. Screening tests using microflotation showed that every microorganism tested was capable of depressing naturally hydrophobic pyrite at acidic pH. Larger-scale experiments with both mineral pyrite and coal pyrite using Thiobacillus ferrooxidans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae as depressants, showed that these microorganisms are very effective depressants for mineral pyrite at acid pH, but they are largely ineffective at neutral and alkaline pH, where the mineral pyrite surface is not naturally hydrophobic. The flotation response of the coal pyrite was completely different from the mineral pyrite. The coal pyrite was most floatable near neutral pH, with the floatability decreasing in acidic or alkaline solutions. Depression of the coal pyrite by yeast was not selective between the pyrite and the associated coal under the experimental conditions.

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Minerals and Metallurgical Processing