Mobilization of metals from uranium mine waste: the role of pyoverdines produced by Pseudomonas fluorescens


Corresponding author: Frida Edberg. Tel.: +4686747262; fax: +466747636; e-mail:


Microorganisms produce chelating agents, such as siderophores and other ligands, which allow them to mobilize and scavenge essential elements from the environment when bioavailability is low. To better understand the effects of biologically mediated leaching of metals from mine waste, Pseudomonas fluorescens was cultivated in the presence of processed ore from the former uranium mine in Ranstad, southern Sweden. Light conditions, the concentration of the mineral source and oxygen availability were varied. The presence of ore in the culture flasks enhanced bacterial growth and raised the pH of the culture medium. Increasing the amount of ore or enhancing aeration of the medium further encouraged cell growth and pH rise. Bacteria mobilized Fe, Ni and Co from the ore. Fe-siderophore complexes were detected and estimated to be present at approximately 9 μm. In the presence of bacteria and light, dissolved Fe and U concentrations were higher compared to dark conditions. Increasing the amount of ore resulted in higher dissolved Ni concentrations but lower dissolved Fe, most likely due to precipitate formation. Data from this study support siderophore production by bacteria that allowed mobilization of essential nutrients from the processed ore. However, the availability of potentially toxic metals like Ni and U may also be enhanced. Microbial-promoted mobilization could contribute to leaching of toxic metals in current and historic mining areas. This process should be considered during design and implementation of remediation projects where trace metals are of environmental concern.