Environmental Mineralogy: Microbial Interactions, Anthropogenic Influences, Contaminated Land and Waste Management
The past 10 years or so have seen the emergence of a discipline known as ‘Environmental Mineralogy’. This should be regarded not as a new discipline per se, but as a new application of traditional mineralogy. Mineralogists have always sought to understand the chemical and physical environment under which a particular mineral forms and to determine the arrangement of atoms within that mineral. The field of Environmental Mineralogy asks the same questions in a different context. For example, can minerals assist in the remediation of contaminated soils and waters? Which minerals can potentially be deleterious to, inter alia, buildings, ecology and human health? Which minerals are suitable as containment for waste? How does the biota interact with minerals? Environmental Mineralogy is emerging as a field that seeks to define the roles of minerals in all environmental systems, and to work towards the preservation and restoration of such systems. Environmental Mineralogy is achieving prominence because of increasing concern regarding the environments in which we live. Mineralogists have perceived a gap in our understanding of how minerals behave in the surface environment and a need for innovative,‘green’ solutions to the problems of contamination and waste. However, the emergence of Environmental Mineralogy also owes much to modern analytical technology. Many minerals in the surface environment fall within the clay-grade range and therefore, demand high-resolution systems for analysis. Similarly, trace elements are now detectable at exceptionally low concentrations in a wide variety of matrices. Further, many mineral-environment interactions need to be examined at the atomic scale for a greater understanding of the interactive processes involved. This requires the application of the latest technologies such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray absorption spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy to name but a few. The aim of this monograph is to provide an up-to-date account of the state of this diverse subject area. With chapters containing a strong review element, it is hoped that this volume will appeal to both researchers and students alike. The volume is arranged in four sections: (1) mineral-microbe interactions; (2) anthropogenic influences on mineral interactions; (3) minerals in contaminated environments; and (4) minerals and waste management. These four sections by no means give exhaustive coverage of the subject area, but communicate some of the most important developments taking place at the present time.
Section 1: Mineral-microbe interactions
Published:January 01, 2000
J. D. Cotter-Howells, 2000. "Section 1: Mineral-microbe interactions", Environmental Mineralogy: Microbial Interactions, Anthropogenic Influences, Contaminated Land and Waste Management, J. D. Cotter-Howells, L. S. Campbell, E. Valsami-Jones, M. Batchelder
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Mineral-microbe interaction is a broad, rather poorly understood field of science. Some aspects of mineral-microbe interactions are relatively well understood, e.g. the oxidation of pyrite and the industrial bioleaching of metals. However, other aspects of mineral-microbe interactions are less well understood, e.g. the significance of microbial weathering of silicate minerals. The field encompasses many interactions in addition to those considered in this short collection of papers. For example, the field encompasses bacterial control on biologicallyinduced mineralization of magnetic iron minerals (Bazylinski and Moskowitz, 1997), effects of clay colloids as a physical substrate for growth and adhesion of microbes (Stotzky, 1986) and the orientation of clay platelets surrounding bacteria. The papers presented here are largely restricted to one area of this broad field, that of mineral transformations mediated by microbes. This area is where much of the current research effort is being directed and advances in our understanding of mineral-microbe interactions are being made.
We live on (or, more properly, are a part of) a biologically-mediated planet. It is now well known that the actions of biological organisms are largely responsible for the precise balance of gases in the Earth ’s atmosphere that makes life possible. However, there is a tendency for geologists and mineralogists to think within the paradigm of physical and chemical factors only and to neglect biological factors. Whilst this may be justified for processes at very elevated T and/or P it is not likely to be justified for processes at surface or near-surface PT coditions.
When describing the weathering of igneous minerals to form either sedimentary rocks or soil, many textbooks list chemical and physical processes as primary factors and biological processes as an additional, relatively minor factor.