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Published by miningnova
recovery of gold in pyritic sulfide ores
recovery of gold in pyritic sulfide ores

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: miningnova on Jun 25, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Recovery of Gold in Pyritic Sulfide Ores
The now extinct Us Bureau of Mines conducted numerous studies of gold in pyrite, and sulfide ores over theyears, until their untimely demise in the 1990's. Much of the referenced studies and case applicationsdiscussed in this brief article came from USMB reports, which even after they ceased to exist, still continueto provide some good scientific information to those working in the mining and mineral processingindustries.Sulfide ores, and pyrites in particular, have caused and continue to cause difficulty in recovering the goldvalues from these ores. In most instances, visible gold can not be seen under microscopic examination of  pyrite gold ores. However, if the ore is ground to -200 mesh, most times, a few specs of gold can be visiblyseen under microscopic examination. Based upon numerous case studies, it appears that gold particles in pyrite are generally fine, ranging from 75 microns down to 2 or 3 microns. The incidence of fine gold'squantity also appears to be related to the gold concentration, as well. If the assay is 2 ounces per ton, thereare generally larger gold particles present along with the typically fine micron sized gold. When the gradediminishes to say, 0.2 ounces per ton, there are generally only micron sized particles associated with the pyrites in the ore. This is not absolute, but it does appear to be the trend.Recovery of gold in sulfide ores has fallen into several categories. First is froth flotation, and second iscyanidation of the ores. Using cyanide to recover gold from sulfide ores generally results in 30 to 35%recovery, and the best I have heard of is around 50% recovery. The fine coating of a iron compounddefinitely appears to be a key component of the inability of cyanide to efficiently leach low grade pyriticores. Perhaps there is some room here for a pretreatment, to remove this iron coating and then make the fine particles susceptible to cyanide leaching. To my knowledge, this has never been attempted. Generallyspeaking, cyanide leaching of low grade pyritic ores is economically unsatisfactory in today's market.Low grade ores that do not respond well to cyanide or flotation are generally referred to a "refractory" ore.Which usually means that it needs to be roasted to release the gold. Roasting has to be one of the mostexpensive methods of recovering gold with current environmental considerations, and is usually cost prohibitive, except in a few circumstances, where grade and volume justify the economics.Gravity concentration tends to recover the pyrite with the gold, and only removes the lighter minerals, suchas quartz, from the ore. The most difficult particles to gravity concentrate are the fines, and 75 microns to 2microns are definitely very fine. So, even if the ore were ground to 2 microns, it may not be recoverableusing current gravity technology.That appears to leave froth flotation as still the best method of recovering the gold from pyritic ores. Sulfideores, such as chalcopyrite, sphaelerite, galena, and pyrrhotite, and mixtures of these ores have historically been found with micron size gold particles included in them. This generally involves frother, severalcollectors (promoters) and possibly some modifying or depressing agents as well.Geologists and mineralogists have many theories why and how the gold occurs with the pyrite, and I will notenter into any of these areas, since I am concerned with liberating the gold from the ores. I will say that frommy understanding, many seem to agree that in sulfide gold ores, the occurrence of gold appears to occur as areplacement of other minerals, possibly iron. One USBM paper summed up five noticeable characteristics of auriferous pyritic ores. The gold occurs as tiny flakes on the crystallographic planes of the pyrite. The goldflakes are very small in size, 5-10 microns. The pyrite in which small amounts of gold occurs is of crystalline variety (primary pyrite). The characteristics of primary pyrite are a absence of porosity, anextreme brittleness, a resistance to oxidation, and the existence of gold possessing a weak susceptibility tomagnetism (due to a fine coating of a iron compound).My theory is that if some economical pre-treatment in a heap leach situation, could nullify the effects of the

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