Bioimmobilization of heavy metals in acidic copper mine tailings soil

Jianying Yang, Xiangliang Pan (Lead / Corresponding author), Chenxi Zhao, Shuyong Mou, Varenyam Achal, Fahad A. Al-Misned, M. Golam Mortuza, Geoffrey Michael Gadd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Heavy metal contamination of mine tailings is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing the mining industry worldwide. Conventional technologies used for the treatment of such tailing soils are expensive both in terms of operation and capital costs as well as being not so effective. In the present study, an indigenous calcifying urease producing bacterial strain was isolated from copper mine tailing soil and used for bioimmobilization of copper, lead and cadmium in contaminated mine tailing soils. Phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequence identified it as Bacillus firmus. The efficiency of metal bioimmobilization was based on microbially induced calcite precipitation (MICP). A five-stage sequential soil extraction procedure was carried out to obtain distribution patterns for the different metals. The mobility of the toxic metals was found to be significantly reduced in the exchangeable fraction with their concentrations markedly increasing in the carbonated fraction after bioremediation. Scanning electron microscopy showed the precipitation of calcite in association with the bacterial cells. Calcium carbonate minerals such as calcite, gwihabaite and aragonite were identified in the bioremediated tailings soils using X-ray diffraction (XRD). It is concluded that MICP holds considerable promise for the remediation of mine tailing soils by efficient immobilization of toxic metals such as copper, lead and cadmium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-266
Number of pages6
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number3-4
Early online date25 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2016


  • Bacillus firmus
  • bioremediation
  • cadmium
  • lead
  • mine tailings
  • urease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


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