A method of preparing a catalyst precursor comprises dissolving an iron salt and a salt of an oxoanion forming agent, in water so that a solution of the iron salt and oxoanion forming agent salt has a ratio of oxoanion/Fe of between 0.0001:1 to 0.5:1. Next is increasing the pH of the solution to 10 by adding a strong base followed by collecting of precipitate having a binary ferrihydrite structure. A binary ferrihydrite catalyst precursor is also prepared by dissolving an iron salt in water. The solution is brought to a pH of substantially 10 to obtain ferrihydrite precipitate. The precipitate is then filtered and washed with distilled water and subsequently admixed with a hydroxy carboxylic acid solution. The admixture is mixed/agitated and the binary ferrihydrite precipitate is then filtered and recovered.