Identification and metabolism of naturally prevailing microorganisms in zinc and copper mineral processing

Hanna Miettinen (Corresponding Author), Malin Bomberg, Thi Minh Khanh Le, Päivi Kinnunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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It has only recently been discovered that naturally prevailing microorganisms have a notable role in flotation in addition to chemical process parameters and overall water quality. This study’s aim was to assess the prevailing microbial communities in relation to process chemistry in a zinc and copper mineral flotation plant. Due to the limitations of cultivation-based microbial methods that detect only a fraction of the total microbial diversity, DNA-based methods were utilised. However, it was discovered that the DNA extraction methods need to be improved for these environments with high mineral particle content. Microbial communities and metabolism were studied with quantitative PCR and amplicon sequencing of bacterial, archaeal and fungal marker genes and shotgun sequencing. Bacteria dominated the microbial communities, but in addition, both archaea and fungi were present. The predominant bacterial metabolism included versatile sulfur compound oxidation. Putative Thiovirga sp. dominated in the zinc plant and the water circuit samples, whereas Thiobacillus spp. dominated the copper plant. Halothiobacillus spp. were also an apparent part of the community in all samples. Nitrogen metabolism was more related to assimilatory than dissimilatory nitrate and nitrite oxidation/reduction reactions. Abundance of heavy metal resistance genes emphasized the adaptation and competitive edge of the core microbiome in these extreme conditions compared to microorganisms freshly entering the process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number156
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Archaea
  • Bacteria
  • Core microbiome
  • DNA
  • Flotation
  • Fungi
  • Heavy metal resistance
  • Sulfur
  • Water quality


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