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Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Oct 15;45(20):9061-8. doi: 10.1021/es201648g. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Microbially mediated mineral carbonation: roles of phototrophy and heterotrophy.

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Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5B7, Canada.


Ultramafic mine tailings from the Diavik Diamond Mine, Canada and the Mount Keith Nickel Mine, Western Australia are valuable feedstocks for sequestering CO₂ via mineral carbonation. In microcosm experiments, tailings were leached using various dilute acids to produce subsaline solutions at circumneutral pH that were inoculated with a phototrophic consortium that is able to induce carbonate precipitation. Geochemical modeling of the experimental solutions indicates that up to 2.5% and 16.7% of the annual emissions for Diavik and Mount Keith mines, respectively, could be sequestered as carbonate minerals and phototrophic biomass. CO₂ sequestration rates are mainly limited by cation availability and the uptake of CO₂. Abundant carbonate mineral precipitation occurred when heterotrophic oxidation of acetate acted as an alternative pathway for CO₂ delivery. These experiments highlight the importance of heterotrophy in producing sufficient DIC concentrations while phototrophy causes alkalinization of waters and produces biomass (fatty acids = 7.6 wt.%), a potential feedstock for biofuel production. Tailings storage facilities could be redesigned to promote CO₂ sequestration by directing leachate waters from tailings piles into specially designed ponds where carbonate precipitation would be mediated by both chemical and biological processes, thereby storing carbon in stable carbonate minerals and potentially valuable biomass.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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