Application of biotechnology for treatment of nitrogen compounds in gold mill effluents
This paper presents the results of a research study that is being conducted by the Mine Effluents Program, Mining and Mineral Science Laboratory (MMSL), Natural Resources Canada aimed at evaluating biotechnology processes for the treatment of nitrogen compounds such as thiocyanide (CNS) and ammonia (NH4-N) which are present in gold mill effluents. A sequencing batch reactor (SBR) technology, commonly used for the biological treatment of municipal and industrial effluents, was used in this study. In the SBR process, the micro-organisms were able to degrade CNS to NH4-N and NH4-N to nitrate (NO3-N) at operating conditions of two 12 h treatment cycles per day, with pH maintained in the 7.4 to 7.6 range, and at room temperature (approximately 21?C) and also at 12?C. The end products of CNS and NH4-N biological oxidation were NO3-N and sulphate (SO4) that are relatively non-toxic. Partial removal of NO3-N was achieved by biological denitrification reactions in the SBR process. The SBR process effluent was measured to be non-toxic to rainbow trout based on the 96 h acute toxicity test. The microbial consortium isolated from the SBR treating a simulated effluent was able to effectively oxidize CNS and NH4-N to NO3-N in water samples (under batch conditions) collected at three mine sites located in Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon.