LongYan kaolin has a large Fe content which affects the coloring. Bioleaching treatments to remove Fe impurities were conducted here using indigenous dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducing bacteria. The factors that affect bioleaching efficiency include bioleaching time, carbon source, pH, temperature, pulp density, and inoculum density and these were examined. Environmental scanning electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction were used to examine any textural or mineralogical changes at the surface of the kaolin that may have occurred during the bioleaching. Iron impurities in the kaolin were reduced from 0.88% to 0.48% with an increase in the natural whiteness index from 60.8% to 81.5% after 7 days of bioleaching treatment. A granulometric analysis of dispersed kaolin demonstrated that the bioleaching resulted in a decrease in particle size. The results demonstrated that the bioleaching was very effective at improving the quality of the kaolin, where insoluble Fe(III), either adsorbed to the kaolin surfaces or admixed as amorphous forms, was leached out by micro-organisms as water-soluble Fe(II).

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