Bioremediation involves the use of living organisms, primarily microorganisms, to degrade environmental contaminants into less toxic forms.

The Environmental Microbiology Group at UFS apply knowledge gained from studies in extreme environments to develop remediation strategies for the treatment of polluted water for various industries. Projects include decontamination of heavy metals, sulphates, nitrate, arsenic and chromium associated with mining and industrial sectors, as well as acid/alkaline mine drainage solutions for medium and low water recovery.  Research is also conducted on the study of metal–microbe interactions for metal biorecovery (e.g. rare earths) and the roles of metals in the physiology of extreme microorganisms, which have the ability to produce secondary metabolites as well as biogas from various substrates and wastes. A multidisciplinary approach is used to integrate engineering, IT and biotechnology to find solutions for industrial problems and allow opportunity for applied research. 

System and AMD

Recent Publications


Castillo J, Maleke M, Rankoroane T, Cason E, Gomez-Arias A and Valverde A (2019) Remediation catalyses of AMD by indigenous microorganisms during chemical treatment. Goldschmidt 2019.


Maleke M, Valverde A, Vermeulen J-G, Cason E, Gomez-Arias A, Coetsee-Hugo L, Swart H, van Heerden E and Castillo J (2019). Anaerobic reduction of europium by a Clostridium strain as a strategy for rare earth biorecovery. Scientific Reports 9:14339.

Maleke M, Valverde A, Vermeulen J-G, Cason E, Gomez-Arias A, Moloantoa K, Coetsee-Hugo L, Swart H, van Heerden E and Castillo J (2019) Biomineralization and bioaccumulation of europium by a thermophilic metal resistant bacterium. Frontiers in Microbiology 30;10:81.


Projects and collaborators

  • Extreme environments as sources of antimicrobial compounds: Interdisciplinary Research - Biotechnology/Pharmacology.
  • Unexplored bacterial diversity and metabolic potential within South African scalding springs: Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme (FBIP) - University of the Free State.
  • How to build self-sustaining subsurface communities: Princeton University - University of the Free State.
  • Development of a bacterial consortium for bioremediation of mine pit lakes: TIA South Africa - University of the Free State. 


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531


Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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