Studies were conducted to investigate the possibilities to use combustion ashes, electric arc furnace (EAF) dust
and lime sludge as neutralising agent with reference to a commercial grade slaked lime. To maintain optimum pH during
biooxidation of pyrite the acid produced has to be neutralised. Batch bioleaching was performed on a pyrite concentrate in
1-L reactors, using a mixed mesophilic culture at a temperature of 35ºC. Neutralising agents were added regularly to adjust
pH to the desired level of 1.5. The ashes used were Bioash, Waste ash and Coal & Tyres ash, representing ashes generated
from combustion of biomass, a mixture of wood chips and municipal waste, and a mixture of coal and tyres. The
dust used was an EAF dust produced in a scrap-based steel plant, while the sludge used was Mesalime produced in a paper
and pulp plant.
The study aimed to investigate the possibility to replace the conventionally used lime or limestone with by-products,
based on their neutralising capacity and to observe eventual toxic effects on the bacterial activity. The bioleaching efficiency
was similar for all the neutralising agents used except Waste ash, when compared with slaked lime. The extent of
pyrite oxidation was in the range 69-75% for all neutralising agents, except Waste ash, which had a pyrite oxidation of
59%. The Waste ash contained a large number of potentially toxic elements and the chloride concentration of 11% probably
had a negative effect as observed on the lower redox potential and pyrite oxidation. The EAF dust has a good potential
to be used as neutralising agent in bioleaching processes for zinc recovery from zinc sulphides, due to the high content of
zinc, however the chlorides present should be removed prior to its use.
The neutralising capacity, as determined by the amount needed for neutralisation during bioleaching, were rather high for
EAF dust, Bioash and Mesalime with 37 g, 33 g and 29 g, respectively as compared with 22 g needed for slaked lime.
However, Waste ash and Coal & Tyres ash had lower neutralising capacities with 81 g and 57 g needed, respectively. It is
concluded that the replacement of lime or limestone with ash, dust or lime sludge can render considerable cost savings to
the bioleaching operation. In addition, it is a means for sustainable use of natural resources, which would provide opportunities
to recycle elements present in them like for example zinc.