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tests for determining the 'leachability' of gold and silver by leaching with cyanide. Take the ore to be leached and crush it to a size that will fit into a pulverizer (usually -1/4"). Then feed the ore to a pulverizer and grind to -100 mesh. If doing multiple samples, a rotary sample splitter will split the sample in 12 or more splits with 99.9% accuracy. If rotary splitters are not available, or the sample is small (such as small core section), use a riffle splitter to split 50% until approximately a 100 gram sample is obtained. Weigh a 100 g portion on a balance with at least 0.01 g sensitivity. Place this 100 g in a 500 ml wide mouth jar with 300 ml of the prepared 0.5% cyanide solution, prepared as shown below. Cyanide Solution. Prepare a 0.5% Cyanide solution, by weighing out the appropriate weight of cyanide for the weight of the water. Three hundred grams of water plus 16 grams of KCN is a 0.5% solution. For 5 liters, add 260 g KCN for a 5% solution. Now, add lime, to bring the pH of the solution up to 11. Use a lab mixer or stirrer to continuously mix the solution for about 30 minutes. Using a 500 ml graduated cylinder, measure out 300 ml of the solution for use with the leach test. Now, with the 300 ml cyanide solution and the 100 g of ore in the bottle, place the lid on firmly, making a seal. Repeat the above steps for as many tests as need to be done. If hundreds of leach tests are to be run a day, and each initial sample is a Kg or larger, it is well worth while to invest in some automated sample splitters, since this is the most tedious and error prone part of the operation. If the sample is not representative, the rest of the work is not worth much. Take the 500 ml jars with the leach solution and ore in them and place them on jar roller(s). These are machines with one, or multiple tiers of rollers, typically ranging from 1 foot long to 6 feet long, that will turn and agitate the slurry of solids and cyanide solution. The bottles need to be agitated around 25-30 rpm's, and most good roller drives have variable speed on them to allow a wide range of adjustment. Typical leach times are 24 to 48 hours. It may be feasible to take a small sample after each 12 hour period, checking the pH of the solution and conducting a assay on the liquid withdrawn. A AA Spectrophotometer is probably the easiest machine to do the assay on dissolved gold in a cyanide solution, although for the hearty assayer, there is a fire assay method for this test, as well. A AA assay gives results in parts per million. 34 PPM equals one ounce per ton, 3.4 PPM equals 0.1 ounce per ton and so on. Some newer AA's give results in PPB (parts per billion), but for bold and silver, if you don't have parts per million, you don't have ore, so it is not necessary. Normally, there will not be much need to agitate past 24 hours, but occasionally ores do have chemical reactions that slow down the leach process. So it is recommended that the sample be agitated for at least 12 hours past 24 hours, and if the assay does not increase, then it has probably leached all that will be leached in cyanide solution. Variables to change in bottle leach tests are the strength of the leach solution, the lowest strength solution that will leach the precious metal is always the most economic solution. Other variables are the pH of the solution, making it more alkaline. Acid should be avoided, since if any acid is used prior to the cyanide, and is still present on the ore (as evidenced by a pH lower than 7 in water) it will produce HCN, a very toxic gas. It is good to take a sample of the ground ore and place it in water and agitate it overnight to see if the pH changes. If it gets acidic, lime should be added to neutralize the acid producing potential of the rock. Also, the CN-AU reaction requires oxygen to be present, so if initial recoveries are poor, try using a larger 1 liter bottle. This will give a larger volume of air, and hence more oxygen for the reaction. A common method for neutralizing any cyanide left in the tailings is to wash with a solution of Hydrogen
Peroxide (H2O2). This neutralizes any unspent CN in the solids, and they may be disposed of, without regards to cyanide content.
Gold Cyanide Solution (Leaching Gold With Cyanide) Since the 1890's, cyanide has been used to recover gold from gold bearing ores. And today, over 115 years later, most of the worlds gold is recovered with cyanide playing a large part in the beneficiation of the yellow precious metal. Chemically, it is a rather simple reaction: 4 Au + 8(NaCN) +O2 + 2 H2O = 4 NaAu(CN)2 + 4 NaOH That presumes that the only elements are the gold, Sodium Cyanide and water. However, as any geologist will tell you, no two ores are the same, and their chemical composition will vary greatly throughout the ore body. These "extra" elements in the mineral compounds will often play havoc with a chemical reaction, as illustrated above. Copper is definitely worth mentioning, since copper minerals will dissolve in cyanide solutions, and cause a increased use of cyanide, the copper-cyanide complexes formed by the dissolution will tend to inhibit the dissolution of gold in the cyanide solution. Zinc, the element used to precipitate gold from solution, if present in the ore, will bond with the cyanide to form a zinc cyanide compound. Another element that plays with the cyanide chemistry is nickel. Nickel, however does not interfere with the gold going into solution, but rather the precipitation of the gold from the cyanide solution. Arsenic and antimony do present a larger problem, by reacting with the cyanide and using up all of the excess oxygen, leaving little or no oxygen to effect the dissolution of gold. Carbonaceous gold ores can have the carbon adsorb the gold onto its surface, and as a result will not be recovered from the pregnant solution. Leaching gold from sulfide ores is difficult, at best. Generally, the recovery for cyanide leaching of sulfide or refractory ores is no better than 30%, which is not a worthwhile venture. The use of alkalies such as calcium oxide, will prevent the decomposition of cyanide in solution to form hydrogen cyanide gas. It reduces the volume of cyanide required to leach the gold or silver. In addition, hydrogen cyanide is highly toxic to people. So, the few dollars spent on adding a cheap calcium oxide to the ore or solution, prior to leaching is worth the money spent. Most cyanide leaching is carried out at a alkaline pH of between 10 and 11, depending upon lab testing of individual ores and the optimum leaching/chemical use rates. The cyanide solution strength is also important in leaching gold, with the typical range of solution being in the 0.02% -0.05% NaCN. The gold particle size has a tremendous effect on the time required for dissolution in a cyanide solution. Generally, the finer the gold, the quicker it will dissolve. A 45 micron particle of gold would dissolve in 10-13 hours, while a 150 micron particle might take from 20 to 44 hours to dissolve in the same solution. Oxygen plays an important role in the leaching of gold in a cyanide solution, also. It has been proven that the rate of dissolution of gold in cyanide solution is directly proportional to the amount of oxygen present. Normal water will have 8-9 ppm dissolved oxygen present in it. If this oxygen is used up by other reactions, it may be necessary to aerate the solution, inducing oxygen into it, to speed up the reaction. With cost being always the determining factor (except in safety), the decision to aerate and speed up the reaction will be made based upon economics and laboratory testing. It is not used much anymore, because most leaching is heap leaching, carried out in the outdoors, where drip emitters or sprays distribute the cyanide solution to a large structure of gold ore, called a "heap". And while the pile of ore is called a heap, it is not a haphazard
pile of rocks. Much thought and design goes into the making of a heap leach, to derive the best, most economical solution for recovering the gold from the ore. Once the gold has been dissolved in the cyanide, and the ore body has been reasonably depleted of its gold, there are two main processes for recovering the gold from the pregnant cyanide solution. One is the MerrillCrowe zinc precipitation process and the other is the adsorption of the gold onto activated carbon. The oldest method, Merrill Crowe, involves first removing the oxygen from the solution, then mixing a fine zinc powder with it (-200 mesh), and recovering the very fine gold precipitate on a precoat filter, since the gold precipitate is very fine, ranging from a few microns to 50 or so microns. The zinc reacts with the cyanide: 2Au(CN) + Zn = 2Au + Zn(CN)4-2 Other chemicals have been used to leach gold, and they include bromine, chlorine, and thiourea. There has also been a lot of experimentation with various biological media for recovering gold from ores, but no one has come up with a more cost effective and productive method than leaching with cyanide. In some special circumstances, some of the other methods may show promise, but for a good oxide gold ore, CN leaching is usually the best of the leach methods for the yellow precious metal. Silver is also leached easily using cyanide, however much silver ore is in sulfide forms, and at higher concentrations (several ounces per ton and above), so other methods such as gravity concentration and froth flotation may be employed.