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Title: Microbial ecology of Rum Jungle, Part I - environmental study of sulphidic overburden dumps, experimental heap-leach piles and tailings dam area.
Authors: Goodman, AE
Khalid, AM
Ralph, BJ
Issue Date: Dec-1981
Publisher: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
Abstract: The microbial ecology of the abandoned uranium mine at Rum Jungle, Northern Territory, was investigated to determine the nature and extent of microbial populations occurring in sulphidic waste areas. Several groups of bacteria were identified and population sizes were estimated, using selective media techniques. Various physicochemical parameters of each sample were determined and correlated with the occurrence of bacteria. A medium giving a high percentage recovery of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans colonies was developed. Sulphidic waste areas were found to support a large and diverse microbial flora, with T. ferrooxidans consistently occurring, although microorganisms were isolated only from the far eastern end of the tailings dam area. In White's dump, relatively low numbers of T. ferrooxidans and high numbers of acidophilic heterotrophs occurred with no seasonal variation, whereas sulphur-oxidising bacteria were absent at the end of the dry season and increased to high numbers during the wet. Desulfovibrio spp. were isolated only from a zone, less that one metre high, at the very base of the dump within which conditions otherwise were aerobic. The dump supported different microbial populations in localised areas and, in two areas where T. ferrooxidans was virtually absent, little pyritic oxidation appeared to be occurring. Intermediate dump was found to differ significantly from White's. T. ferrooxidans was the major microbial species, numbers of which increased from the end of the wet season to the early dry. Other bacterial types were scarce and no anaerobic bacteria was isolated. Relatively crude temperature measurements indicated that, in the top of the dump, pyritic oxidation may be occurring more homogeneously and at higher rates than in White's dump.
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