This work investigated the effects of Fe3+
and adsorbed leaching bacteria on the bioleaching of pentlandite. Collectively, an integrated model for the oxidation and decomposition of pentlandite was built to describe the behaviors of different components in a bioleaching system. Proton ions and ferric ions could promote the break and oxidation of Ni-S and Fe-S bonds. The iron-oxidizing microorganisms could regenerate ferric ions and maintain a high Eh value. The sulfur-oxidizing microorganisms showed significant importance in the oxidation of polysulfide and elemental sulfur. The atoms in pentlandite show different modification pathways during the bioleaching process: iron transformed through a (Ni,Fe)9
pathway; nickel experienced a transformation of (Ni,Fe)9
→ NiS → Ni2+
; sulfur modified through the pathway of S2−
. During bioleaching, a sulfur-rich layer and jarosite layer formed on the mineral surface, and the rise of pH value accelerated the process. However, no evidence for the inhibition of the layers was shown in the bioleaching of pentlandite at pH 3.00. This study provides a novel method for the extraction of nickel from pentlandite by bioleaching at elevated pH values.
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