Microorganisms have the ability to impact the surficial environment they inhabit via the extraction of nutrients from their surroundings. These processes include the formation of organic and inorganic acids that break down minerals, as well as production of bicarbonate ions to buffer pH. Kimberlite waste rock deposits provide an excellent natural laboratory to study large-scale weathering, bacteria-mineral interactions, and mineral carbonation reactions that sequester atmospheric CO2. The aim of the present study is to promote both weathering and mineral carbonation within tailings material from the Venetia diamond mine, Limpopo, ZAF, via the inoculation of a native microbial consortia. The expected outcomes are (1) an understanding of the microbial processes leading carbonate precipitation, and (2) a proof of concept that harnessing these microbial processes can promote mineral carbonation at a field/industrial scale. 

Funding: Research Training Program

Advisors: Prof Gordon Southam, Dr Emma Gagen

Project members

Thomas JONES

PhD Candidate