One of the serious environmental problems that society is facing today is mine tailings. These byproducts of the process of extraction of valuable elements from ores are a source of pollution and a threat to the environment. For example, mine tailings from past mining activities at Giant Mines, Yellowknife, are deposited in chambers, stopes, and tailing ponds close to the shores of The Great Slave Lake. One of the environmentally friendly approaches for removing heavy metals from these contaminated tailing is by using biosurfactants during the process of soil washing. The objective of this present study is to investigate the effect of sophorolipid (SL) concentration, the volume of washing solution per gram of medium, pH, and temperature on the efficiency of sophorolipids in removing heavy metals from mine tailings. It was found that the efficiency of the sophorolipids depends on its concentration, and is greatly affected by changes in pH, and temperature. The results of this experiment show that increasing the temperature from 15 to 23 °C, while using sophorolipids, resulted in an increase in the removal of iron, copper, and arsenic from the mine tailing specimen, from 0.25, 2.1, and 8.6 to 0.4, 3.3, and 11.7%. At the same time, increasing the temperature of deionized water (DIW) from 15 to 23 °C led to an increase in the removal of iron, copper, and arsenic from 0.03, 0.9, and 1.8 to 0.04, 1.1, and 2.1%, respectively. By increasing temperature from 23 to 35 °C, when using sophorolipids, 22% reduction in the removal of arsenic was observed. At the same time while using DI water as the washing solution, increasing temperature from 23 to 35 °C resulted in 6.2% increase in arsenic removal. The results from this present study indicate that sophorolipids are promising agents for replacing synthetic surfactants in the removal of arsenic and other heavy metals from soil and mine tailings.
Environmental Science and Pollution Research – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 29, 2018