Biomining of iron-containing nanoparticles from coal tailings

  • Danielle MaassEmail author
  • Morgana de Medeiros Machado
  • Beatriz Cesa Rovaris
  • Adriano Michael Bernardin
  • Débora de Oliveira
  • Dachamir Hotza
Environmental biotechnology


Sulfur minerals originating from coal mining represent an important environmental problem. Turning these wastes into value-added by-products can be an interesting alternative. Biotransformation of coal tailings into iron-containing nanoparticles using Rhodococcus erythropolis ATCC 4277 free cells was studied. The influence of culture conditions (stirring rate, biomass concentration, and coal tailings ratio) in the particle size was investigated using a 23 full factorial design. Statistical analysis revealed that higher concentrations of biomass produced larger sized particles. Conversely, a more intense stirring rate of the culture medium and a higher coal tailings ratio (% w/w) led to the synthesis of smaller particles. Thus, the culture conditions that produced smaller particles (< 50 nm) were 0.5 abs of normalized biomass concentration, 150 rpm of stirring rate, and 2.5% w/w of coal tailings ratio. Composition analyses showed that the biosynthesized nanoparticles are formed by iron sulfate. Conversion ratio of the coal tailings into iron-containing nanoparticles reached 19%. The proposed biosynthesis process, using R. erythropolis ATCC 4277 free cells, seems to be a new and environmentally friendly alternative for sulfur minerals reuse.


Biomining Coal tailings Iron sulfate nanoparticle Rhodococcus erythropolis Sulfur minerals 



The authors are grateful to Prof. João Batista Marimon da Cunha of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul for accomplishing the Mössbauer spectroscopy analysis. We also acknowledge the LABMASSA/UFSC (Laboratório de Transferência de Massa) for the laboratorial infrastructure. Morgana M. Machado is thankful for her doctoral fellowship provided by CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel). Danielle Maass acknowledges her postdoctoral fellowship provided by CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) under project number 154980/2016-1.


The São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) with the research grant 2019/07659-4 supports the researcher of Danielle Maass.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Science and Technology (ICT)Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP)São José dos CamposBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Food Engineering (EQA)Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC)FlorianópolisBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Materials Engineering (PPGCEM)Universidade do Extremo Sul de Santa Catarina (UNESC)CriciúmaBrazil

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