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Elemental Sulfur and Organic Matter Amendment Drive Alkaline pH Neutralization and Mineral Weathering in Iron Ore Tailings Through Inducing Sulfur Oxidizing Bacteria

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posted on 2023-12-12, 19:40 authored by Qing Yi, Fang You, Zhen Li, Songlin Wu, Ting-Shan Chan, Ying-Rui Lu, Lars Thomsen, Jian Wang, Yuanying Ma, Yunjia Liu, Lachlan Robertson, Gordon Southam, Longbin Huang
Mineral weathering and alkaline pH neutralization are prerequisites to the ecoengineering of alkaline Fe-ore tailings into soil-like growth media (i.e., Technosols). These processes can be accelerated by the growth and physiological functions of tolerant sulfur oxidizing bacteria (SOB) in tailings. The present study characterized an indigenous SOB community enriched in the tailings, in response to the addition of elemental sulfur (S0) and organic matter (OM), as well as resultant S0oxidation, pH neutralization, and mineral weathering in a glasshouse experiment. The addition of S0 was found to have stimulated the growth of indigenous SOB, such as acidophilic Alicyclobacillaceae, Bacillaceae, and Hydrogenophilaceae in tailings. The OM amendment favored the growth of heterotrophic/mixotrophic SOB (e.g., class Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria). The resultant S0 oxidation neutralized the alkaline pH and enhanced the weathering of biotite-like minerals and formation of secondary minerals, such as ferrihydrite- and jarosite-like minerals. The improved physicochemical properties and secondary mineral formation facilitated organo-mineral associations that are critical to soil aggregate formation. From these findings, co-amendments of S0 and plant biomass (OM) can be applied to enhance the abundance of the indigenous SOB community in tailings and accelerate mineral weathering and geochemical changes for eco-engineered soil formation, as a sustainable option for rehabilitation of Fe ore tailings.

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