New Microbe and Sulfur Cycling
A new microbe that eats iron and lives in some of the most acidic conditions
found on earth has been identified as a major player in the environmental
damage caused by metal ore mining. It also raises questions about the ability
of microbes to survive in extremely toxic environments on earth or on other
planets, and what role these organisms play in the cycling of iron and sulfur
in the environment....
Microbe May be a Key to Mine Pollution
A newfound microbe that eats iron and lives in acid-drenched conditions
has been identified as a chief suspect in the environmental damage caused
by metal ore mining. Writing in the Friday, March 10, edition of the journal
Science, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
report the discovery in an old mine of an archaeon that thrives when metal
sulfide ores are exposed to air and water, conditions that mimic hot battery
acid. The microbe, the scientists say, is present in such abundance that
it is believed to be a key mediator of the process of acid mine drainage,
the primary environmental problem associated with the extraction of metal
ores from the earth. The microbe shows an ability to transform the sulfide
found in metal ores to sulfuric acid, the chemical pollutant that contaminates
mining sites and drains into nearby rivers, streams and groundwater.
Mine Drainage Home Page
Acid mine drainage (AMD) environments have recently received considerable
attention due mainly to the environmental problems associated with them.
Acid mine drainage is acidic water containing sulfuric acid (and often
toxic heavy metals) which results from the microbial oxidation of iron-sulfide
minerals which have been exposed through mining processes.