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Gold Extraction Using Cyanide

Gold Extraction Using Cyanide

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Published by Sandeep Hukku
This document gives you the complete information for the extraction of gold..PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT AFTER READING THAT DID YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
This document gives you the complete information for the extraction of gold..PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT AFTER READING THAT DID YOU LIKE IT OR NOT

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Published by: Sandeep Hukku on Sep 18, 2009
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Leaching of a Gold Bearing Partially Roasted Sulphide.Laboratory Scale Studies
 M.F. Almeida*
Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias s/n,4200-465 Porto, Portugal
Received: June 19, 2001; Revised: October 12, 2001This research aimed at defining a route for recovering precious metals from a very heterogeneousgold bearing sulphide and arsenide concentrate that was partially roasted and dumped by the 1960swhen Santo António mine closed. Gold occurs in this concentrate as free particles in the range of 10-100
µ
m, most of them still enclosed in the pyrite and arsenopyrite matrix. Its content varies from20 to 150 g of Au/ton, being higher at the dump upper levels and in the finer concentrate fractions.Preliminary tests demonstrated the refractoriness of this product, since the leaching withconventional cyanide solutions and with other leaching solutions gave very low recoveries. How-ever, high concentrated cyanide solutions recover more than 60% of Au, although with high NaCNand lime consumptions and poor settling characteristics. Iron was shown to be highly dissolved inthese solutions.Some prior treatments clearly favoured the cyanidation process, in particular a roasting step.Thus, a large number of roasting experiments was carried out to define the most favourableconditions for recovering gold. However, no clear relationship between roasting conditions and golddissolution was found due to the heterogeneity of the product and high variance of gold experimentalrecoveries. These recoveries were calculated considering gold contained in both the leachingresidues and leachates, and uncertainties of these results are relatively high.Roasting the product at 450-700 °C for 1 h guarantees a high probability to dissolve at least 74%Au in a highly concentrated NaCN solution stirred for 24 h. The 600-700 °C roasting range is clearlypreferable for consuming less cyanide and lime. Pre-washing the roasted product seems not to reducethe cyanide consumption.Regarding the silver recovery, the NaCN and lime consumption are higher while using theproducts roasted at the lowest tested temperatures. Products roasted at higher temperatures havebetter settling performance.
Keywords:
 precious metals, cyanide, thiourea, roasting, recovery estimation
1. Introduction
Santo António gold mines are situated in the North of Portugal and were already explored in the 1st century A.D.by the Romans. These mines were reactivated around 1950and closed 10 years later. The following two reasons ex-plain to some extent such unsuccess: (i) an optimisticestimate of higher gold content was made; (ii) the flowsheetincluding a roasting step was based in few experimentaltests. Thus, some unexpected surprises in the operationperformance arose, namely low gold recoveries by cyani-dation and poor gold cementation using Merril-Croweprocess, with no de-aeration. Around 1980, two other soli-tary unsuccessful trials took place without continuity, per-haps due to the same intrinsic main causes
 , i.e
., high refrac-toriness of the ore and very random gold content. One of those trials processed all the stocked ore by milling it up toa very fine grain size followed by cyanidation, adsorptionof gold onto activated carbon, burning it and melting theresulting ashes
1
. The other is the core of this work carriedout between 1984-1986, that aimed at recovering the goldcontent in a 2000 ton dump of partially roasted sulphideconcentrate by adopting a batch operation in a small own-built plant
2
.
Materials Research, Vol. 4, No. 4, 305-314, 2001.© 2001
*e-mail: mfa@fe.up.pt
 
Cyanide is still the most used reagent for recoveringgold from its ores. In the case of refractory ores containingcomplex minerals, gold dissolution is not a simple processand its rate becomes depressed after a certain time of cyanidation
3
. Mineralogical identification of the ore anddiagnostic leaching are alternative methods for establishingand designing a metallurgical flowsheet for refractoryores
4
. Some alternative leaching agents, namely thiourea,have been tried due to the environmental concerns, gener-ally without economic success
5
. An usual approach forprocessing complex refractory gold ores is a pre-oxidationtreatment prior the gold leaching step and the most knownoptions are roasting, pressure oxidation and bioxidation
6-8
.Pressure oxidation is a technology where sulfuric acid canplay an important role for oxidising arsenopyrite effec-tively
9-11
. Biological processes are a reality as productiontechnologies chosen for a significant refractory gold treat-ment plants worldwide. Several references discuss its ap-plication as biorector and bioheap leaching methods forrefractory gold bearing sulphides and arsenides, wherecyanide, as well as ammonium thiosulfate, are used asleaching agents
12-17
.With the objective of designing a feasible flowsheet forrecovering gold from those 2000 ton dump of partiallyroasted sulphide concentrate, following its mineralogicaland chemical characterisation, some trials to concentrategold by using magnetic separation and froth flotation proc-esses were carried out without success. Then, several leach-ing screening tests were carried out using conventionalcyanide concentrations of 0.5% w/v NaCN, conditioningthe pulp and testing some treatments prior to cyanidation.Thiourea was tested as leaching agent, too. As generalconclusion one can point out the failure of all those foreseenroutes, except either leaching the concentrate with highercyanide concentration or roasting it followed by cyanida-tion. Therefore, much more effort was invested in these twolast lines of research.
2. Gold Recovery Estimation
Gold recovery is usually computed by using the follow-ing expression:
η =
m
s
Au
s
m
s
Au
s
+
m
r
Au
r
(1)where m
s
is mass of solution, m
r
of residue and Au
s
and Au
r
are the gold contents (w/w) in solution and residue, respec-tively. The results obtained are expressed in percentage.However, if the gold bearing product is sufficiently uni-form and the gold particles are very fine, a small variancein gold ore content is expected and gold recovery can bevery well estimated by using the following expression:
η =
m
s
Au
s
m
p
Au
p
(2)where p stands for product. It means that the ratio betweenthe gold determined in the leachate and average gold con-tent in the ore well estimates gold recovery and there is noneed to determine gold in residues.However, in the case of gold ores, the use of expression(1) is frequently a must. In this case, the estimate of recov-ery variance as a function of the different factors present inexpression (1) is given by:s
2
η
= (∂η
m
s
)
20
s
2
(
m
s
) + (∂η
Au
s
)
20
s
2
(
Au
s
) +(
η
m
r
)
20
s
2
(
m
r
) +
(
η
Au
r
)
20
s
2
(
Au
r
)
(3)where ( )
0
means the derivative to be computed at the meanvalue of the variables. The development of this equationgives:s
2
η
= (
m
r
Au
r
Au
s
Au
2t
)
2
s
2
(
m
s
) + (
m
r
m
s
Au
r
Au
2t
)
2
s
2
(
Au
s
) +(
m
s
Au
r
Au
s
Au
2t
)
2
s
2
(
m
r
) +
(
m
r
m
s
Au
s
Au
2t
)
2
s
2
(
Au
r
)
(4)where Au
t
= m
r
Au
r
+ m
s
Au
s
= m
p
Au
p
.If one considers s
2
(m
s
)
s
2
(m
r
)
0, since they arevariance estimates of volume and mass measurements,generally less than (
±
0.01* magnitude measured)
2
, expres-sion (4) reduces to:s
2
η
= (
m
r
m
s
Au
r
Au
2t
)
2
s
2
(
Au
s
) + (
m
r
m
s
Au
s
Au
2
t
)
2
s
2
(
Au
r
)
(5),showing dependency on the gold solution and residuecontents. Assuming optimistic errors of 3% for gold deter-mination in solution by atomic absorption spectrometry(A.A.S.) and 15% for the laboratory way of sampling theresidue, sample digestion, consequent dilutions of solu-tions up to A.A.S. determination, and substituting accord-ingly, the expression (5) becomes:
s
2
η
= (
m
r
m
s
Au
r
Au
2t
)
2
(±0.03
Au
s
)
2
+(
m
r
m
s
Au
s
Au
2t
)
2
(±0.15
Au
r
)
2
= (
m
r
m
s
Au
r
Au
s
Au
2t
)
2
(
0.03
2
+
0.15
2
)
(6)With recoveries expressed as percentages these esti-mates shall be multiplied by 10000, or the square root of them (
i.e.
, its standard deviation, taken as the normal error)multiplied by 100. The magnitude of the uncertainty aboutthe recovery created by those influences is sensible and can
306Almeida
 Materials Research
 
be illustrated by considering the following data: m
r
= 1 kg;m
s
= 2 kg; Au
r
= 15 g/ton; Au
s
= 27.5 g/ton. Sample averagerecovery is about 78.6% and estimated standard deviationis around 25.8%. If Au
r
= 7 g/ton then the calculated valuefor recovery is 90% and the standard deviation is 13.8%.These results indicate that uncertainty about true recov-ery values is much more affected by gold residue uncer-tainty than gold solution uncertainty, and it decreases asboth gold content in the product and its recovery increase.Based in these considerations and (i) assuming normaldistribution for the recovery variable; (ii) estimating recov-ery variance by the above expression; (iii) considering tStudent statistic defined as:t
=
η
 __
µ
η
s
η __
(7)where
µ
η
is the true mean recovery and s
η
is the samplestandard deviation of the mean recovery; and (iv) respec-tive t value at t-Student tables, then intervals can be builtwhere the true recovery value is contained with a givendegree of confidence, generally taken as 95%.
3. Experimental
A sample of about 100 kg was taken from the dumpedsulphides and considered as a representative sample. Dueto the known randomness of gold in the product, all theleaching tests used either 0.5 or 1 kg of ore. Experimentalrecoveries were computed through gold and silver valuesin both the final leachate and corresponding leaching resi-due. For this purpose the final leaching residue was firstsampled, then the sample digested with hot aqua regiasolution, followed by water washing the residue and thenanalysing the gold content in that solution by atomic ab-sorption spectrometry (A.A.S.). This method of analysiswas also used to determine other metals in the leachates andother solutions. In the case of gold determinations thebackground correction was used.Commercial reagents and tap water were used for allthe experimental work. In the leaching tests the pulp wasagitated in a 5 L glass beaker and experiments were con-trolled by sampling leachates at predetermined times. Elec-trode immersion in the stirred pulp was used for monitoringpH, and readings were taken only after stable pH valueswere achieved. For the cyanidation tests, lime was used toraise the pH to an alkaline level, and at the end of eachexperiment, the residue was washed with constant volumesof a stock lime solution. Free cyanide was determined bytitration with silver nitrate using potassium iodide as indi-cator.Carbon and sulphur in solid products were determinedusing an oxygen combustion method followed by absorp-tion of the resulting gases. Carbon was quantified by thepercentage of CO
2
absorbed in a sodium hydroxide solutionand sulphur was titrated as sulphate.In order to simulate the industrial scale conditions,sulphides were roasted by using a 40 cm diameter x 100 cmlength rotary kiln where the feed was directly heated by anair-propane flame that was turned on-off according to atemperature control device.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Characterisation
Gold occurs in the original ore generally in arsenopyritethat is associated with iron sulphides, mainly pyrite andchalcopyrite. Galena and sphalerite are also usual mineralsand native bismuth occurs sometimes as small inclusionsin arsenopyrite
2
. In the partially roasted sulphides bearingore, gold was observed by microscopy as particles whosesize was in the 10 to 100
µ
m range, either as completelyfree or still inserted in grains containing sulphur andarsenium. Most of these grains still contain a few alteredcore that is bounded by a very porous surface resulting fromboth the industrial roasting step performed in a rotary kilndirectly heated by a fuel-air flame, according to the oldmine reports, and weathering. Grains of wolframite andpecheblend were also observed at the microscope. The onlygold particle semi-quantitative analysis carried out re-vealed 63.6% Au and 36.3% Ag
2
.Table 1 shows the size distribution analysis of 8 sam-ples. Most of the coarser particles retained in the sieves are,in fact, agglomerates of finer particles, perhaps producedat the roasting step by rolling and binding the concentrateparticles of sulphides. According to a previous analysis, theoverall chemical composition of the product is 65.0 and72.4 g/ton Ag and Au, respectively; and in percentage,SiO
2
= 17.50; Fe = 32.74; S = 8.10; As = 5.00; Cu = 0.10
18
.Table 2 presents the results obtained by analysing 14different size fractions from about 8 kg sample. Gold, silverand most of the usual non-ferrous metals increase in thefiner fractions, mainly those smaller than 0.150 mm. Con-sidering both the gold content in the 14 fractions and therespective mass percentage, computed average gold con-tent is around 65 g/ton, less than 72.4 g/ton Au referredbefore. Due to the large relative variation of the finer andgold richer percentage sizes, a considerable scatter of thegold content of the samples is expected. In addition, it wasalso verified that average gold values corresponding to thedeeper levels of the dump were unfortunately around20 g/ton.Carbon in the product was 1.95%, probably due to thedeposited organic matter from the vegetation at the dumpsurroundings. Sulphur was found to be 3.70%.
Vol. 4, No. 4, 2001Gold Bearing Partially Roasted Sulphide307

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