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au ag leaching practices

au ag leaching practices

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Published by Russell Hartill

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Published by: Russell Hartill on Oct 18, 2008
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8
GOLD
AN
SILVER
LEACHING
PRACTICES
IN
THE
UNITED
STATES
b y
Peter
G.
Chamberlain
i
and
Michael
G.
Pojar2
ABS TRACT
Many
new
gold
and
silver
mining
operations
have
been
established
as
a
result
of
higher
gold
and
silver
prices.
Leaching
processes
capable
of
extracting
gold
and/oT
silver
from
small
deposits
and/or
lower
grade
ores
have
become
attractive
to
many
precious
metal
mine
operators.
This
paper
discusses
operating
principles
associated
with
gold
and
silver
leach
mining.
Problems
confronting
potential
leaching
operations
are
also
discussed
along
with
research
projects
in
progress
to
resolve
these
problems.
IN T R O D U C T IO N
Treatment
methods
applicable
to
comparatively
high-grade
gold
and
silver
ores
include
gravity
concentration,
amalgamation,
flotation,
cyanidation,
or
direct
smelting.
Such
processes
involve
high
capital
investments
as
well
as
high
operating
costs.
A
conventional
cyanidation
plant
used
in
processing
gold
and
silver
ores
usually
includes
crushing,
fine
grinding,
and
agitation
leaching
in
cyanide
solutions,
countercurrent
decantation
in
thickeners
for
separating
the
pregnant
solution,
clarification
of
this
solution
by
filtering,
deaeration
by
vacuuming,
and
precipitation
of
the
precious
metals
by
zinc
pow-
der.
It
is
obvious
that
such
a
processing
scheme
is
costly
from
the
viewpoint
of
capital
investment
and
operating
cost.
For
this
reason.
such
processes
are
not
economically
justified
for
lower
grade
ores.
Many
of
the
known
and
newly
discovered
gold
and
silver
deposits
are
low
in
gold
and/or
silver
content,
have
limited
reserves,
or
contain
other
min-
erals
that
make
processing
by
conventional
gravity
and
cyanidation
methods
impractical.
Such
lower
grade
and
refractory
deposits
pose
a
big
challenge
to
modern
extraction
technology.
The
gold
and/or
silver
in
small
and
low-grade
deposits
for
which
conven-
tional
mining
and
milling
are
too
costly
might
be
economically
recoverable
by
leaching
or
solution
mining
methods.
Solution
mining
is
the
extraction
of
metals
by
leaching
from
ores
located
within
the
confines
of
a
mine,
or
in
dumps,
ore
heaps,
slag
piles,
and
tailing
ponds.
If
the
ore
1s
mined
or
gathered
from
old
mine
waste
rock
piles
and
hauled
to
specifically
prepared
pads
for
leaching.
the
method
is
termed
"heap"
leach-
ing
(fig.
1).
The
rock
is
frequently,
but
not
always,
crushed
before
being
iGroup
supervisor,
Mine
Drainage,
Leaching
Processes
and
Water
Pollution.
2Mining
engineer,
Blasting
Technology
and
In
Situ
Kining.
Both
authors
are
with
the
Twin
Cities
Research
Center.
Bureau
of
Mines.
Minneapolis,
Minn.
9
.
B o rre n s o lu tio n
from processing
p la n t
Influent
leaching
solution
Solution
makeup
to n k
S o lu tio n
s p ra y s
Leaching
pad
, .,
..
-
Pregnant
effluent
solution
:
Pum p
F IG U R E 1 . S c h e m a tic o f a h e a p le a c h in g o p e ra tio n .
..
To processing
p la n t
In flu e n t s o lu tio n s p ra y s
~ ;~
. I .
ro c k
1
P re g n a n t s o lu tio n
~ in a g e
~
p o n d
B a rre n s o lu tio n
from processing
p lo n t
Solution
makeup
to n k
To processing
p lo n t
- -
Pum p
F IG U R E 2 . . S c h e m a tic o f a d u m p le a c h in g o p e ra tio n .
Basically
leaching
involves
spraying
a
cyanide
solution
onto
the
are,
or
the
injection
of
a
cyanide
solution
into
an
ore
body
to
dissolve
the
gold
or
silver,
collecting
the
solution
con-
taining
the
dissolved
metals
and
recovering
the
metal
fro m th e le a c h in g s o lu tio n .
By
eliminating
milling,
leaching
reduces
capital
Operating
costs
are
likewise
sig-
1 0
Exposed
Ore
Body
1
Solution
7
Processing
s p ra y s p la n t
~
'
J
O re
b o d y
Buried
Ore
Body
P ro c e s s in g
p la n t
.I
O re
b o d y
Pum p
F IG U R E 3 . - S c h e m a tic o f a n in s itu le a c h in g o p e r a tio n .
cost
and
startup
time
for
new
operations.
nificantly
lower.
LEACaING
OPERATIONSl
placed
on
the
pad.
If
old
mine
waste
rock
piles
or
dumps
are
judged
to
contain
sufficient
mineral
value
to
justify
leaching
and
the
solutions
can
be
controlled
w ith o u t a p p re c ia b le lo s s e s i
the
pile
is
"dump"
leached
(fig.
2).
Finally,
if
the
are
is
broken
and
left
in
place
or
if
it
will
allow
proper
fluid
flow
without
blasting,
it
can
be
leached
"in
situ,"
or
in
place
(fig.
3).
An
exposed
are
b o d y c a n b e le a c h e d in s i tu
by
spraying
solution
on
the
surface
and
collecting
it
in
recovery
wells
after
it
has
percolated
down
through
the
are.
For
buried
ore
bodies
i
the
solution
must
be
forced
into
the
forma-
tion
via
injection
wells
a n d re c o v e re d fro m a d ja c e n t
recovery w ells.
\u00a1
Gold
and
silver
leaching
operations
are
concentrated
predominantly
in
the
Western
United
States,
along
a
broad
belt
coinciding
with
the
mountain
ranges
that
have
historically
hosted
the
bulk
of
our
Nation'
s
precious
metal
mining
activity.
Approximately
84
operations
have
been
or
are
known
to
be
actively
using
leaching
techniques
(either
heap
or
dump)
to
extract
gold
and
silver
minerals
on
either
a
test
or
a
commercial
scale
(table
1).
The
majority
of
these
operations
are
located
in
Nevada
and
Arizona.
The
principal
ones
are
shown
on
figure
4.

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