Fungal biotransformation of zinc silicate and sulfide mineral ores


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In this work, several fungi with geoactive properties, including Aspergillus niger, Beauveria caledonica and Serpula himantioides, were used to investigate their potential bioweathering effects on zinc silicate and zinc sulfide ores used in zinc extraction and smelting, to gain understanding of the roles that fungi may play in transformations of such minerals in the soil, and effects on metal mobility. Despite the recalcitrance of these minerals, new biominerals resulted from fungal interactions with both the silicate and the sulfide, largely resulting from organic acid excretion. Zinc oxalate dihydrate was formed through oxalate excretion by the test fungi and the mineral surfaces showed varying patterns of bioweathering and biomineral formation. In addition, calcium oxalate was formed from the calcium present in the mineral ore fractions, as well as calcite. Such metal immobilization may indicate that the significance of fungi in effecting metal mobilization from mineral ores such as zinc silicate and zinc sulfide is rather limited, especially if compared with bacterial sulfide leaching. Nevertheless, important bioweathering activities of fungi are confirmed which could be of local significance in soils polluted by such materials, as well as in the mycorrhizosphere.