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COBALT, NICKEL AND COPPER RECOVERY WITH RESIN-IN-PULP

by

J.P, Wyethe

, M.H. Kotze

, I.P. Greager

and A.C. Swarts




Mintek Anglovaal Mining
Private Bag X3015 PO Box 62379
Randburg Marshalltown
South Africa South Africa
2125 2107


Resin-in-pulp (RIP) technology was developed for the recovery of valuable metals from
high volumes of low grade pulps, as is the case with gold processing. More recently, the
application of this technology has been evaluated for the recovery of soluble losses of
valuable metals from solid residues in base metal plants. For this type of application, the
RIP process will improve overall plant recoveries, especially where solid-liquid separation
proves difficult as a result of poor filterability or settling characteristics of the solids. An
added benefit of the RIP process is a reduction in the environmental impact of the solid
residues contaminated with entrained base metals from the plant.

Mintek investigated the metallurgical and economic feasibility of using RIP technology for
the recovery of soluble cobalt, nickel and copper from thickener underflows on behalf of
Anglovaal Mining. Laboratory and mini-plant investigations included the recovery of
copper with RIP, followed by simultaneous nickel and cobalt recovery using a second RIP
circuit. Recovery of copper, nickel and cobalt in a single RIP circuit was also investigated.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
1

1. INTRODUCTION
The development of the resin-in-pulp (RIP) process at Mintek was initially targeted at the
recovery of metals from large volumes of low-grade leach pulps, as is the case in the gold
processing industry. Minteks RIP expertise culminated in the development of a resin-in-
pulp process, MINRIP
TM
, for the recovery of gold from leached slurries. Mintek has
subsequently evaluated the applicability of this technology for the in-pulp extraction of
copper, zinc, nickel, cobalt, vanadium, manganese and cyanide [1,2,3].

The main application of the RIP process in the base metal industry will be the scavenging
of soluble metals from leach residues, precipitation residues and other solid wastes that
have poor filterability or settling characteristics. However, this technology can also be
applied to the recovery of metals from the leach slurries when low-grade materials are
treated. The major advantages of the resin-in-pulp process are as follows:
It is effective for the recovery of soluble metals from pulps. The fact that the process
operates in a pulp medium means that the upstream solid-liquid requirements may be
reduced or possibly eliminated. In addition, it may be possible to significantly reduce
wash water requirements associated with conventional solid-liquid separation steps.
The RIP process may be able to achieve lower discharge metal concentrations than
those possible with the more conventional filtration or solid-liquid separation systems,
hence reducing the potential for problems associated with the disposal of wastes
containing soluble metals.
The overall metal recoveries on the plant can be improved.
Co-precipitated and adsorbed metal species can generally be recovered with the RIP
process, which will further improve the overall metal recovery.

Anglovaal Mining commissioned Mintek to evaluate the feasibility of a RIP process for the
recovery of soluble cobalt, nickel and copper from a thickener underflow. This paper
outlines the process development, from the batch laboratory testwork to the continuous
mini-plant campaign. Based on these results, full-scale plants were sized and preliminary
techno-economic studies were conducted on three flowsheet options.

2. PROCESS DESCRIPTION
A RIP plant could either be operated in a carousel counter-current mode where resin
handling can be limited and the resin inventory is accurately controlled in each stage, or in
a continuous counter-current mode. Although inventory control may prove more difficult
during continuous operation, a substantial capital expenditure (CAPEX) saving is possible.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
2
For the recovery of base metals with RIP, typical upgrading ratios vary between 10 and 50,
in comparison with 1000 or more for gold as applied in the CIS and MinRIP. Hence, in
order to achieve barren specifications on a base metal plant, resin inventory control across
the adsorption train will be critical. Consequently, a carousel mode of operation was
chosen for the mini-plant evaluation for the recovery of cobalt, nickel and copper from the
Anglovaal Mining slurries. A schematic layout of the proposed process is given in Figure
1.
FEED SLURRY
REPULP TANK
ADSORPTION
ELUTION
RESIN-PULP SEPARATION
WASH
ELUANT
WATER
RECYCLE
TO PRIMARY
RECOVERY
CIRCUIT
BARREN PULP
STAGE 1 PULP
RECYCLED AT
TRANSFER
DENOTES RESIN FLOW
DENOTES PULP/SOLUTION FLOW


Figure 1 : Schematic representation of the carousel resin-in-pulp circuit

During the adsorption stage, the feed pulp is contacted with resin in a multi-stage, counter-
current plant. After the resin has been passed counter-currently through the adsorption
plant, the resin will be loaded predominantly with the valuable metals together with lower
concentrations of other metals. The barren pulp from the last stage could be discarded to
the slimes dam, after a pH adjustment, or alternatively the barren pulp could be thickened,
and the thickener overflow could be returned to the plant for use as process water.

The loaded resin exiting the adsorption circuit is separated from the pulp by means of a
linear belt, sieve bend or vibrating screen, and the pulp is returned to the repulp tank. The
loaded resin is then rinsed with water to remove any particulates, after which the resin is
transferred into an elution column. During elution, the metals are stripped from the resin
with sulphuric acid (this could be fresh acid or any acid-bearing stream), producing a
concentrated metal sulphate eluate. Excess acid and entrained eluate solution are
washed from the resin bed with water, and the eluate, and possibly the wash water, are
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
3
returned to the relevant unit operation in the primary process flowsheet. The eluted,
washed resin is returned to the adsorption circuit during the next transfer.

Elution and washing of resin in a fixed bed are established operations, therefore the mini-
plant investigation focused on the adsorption circuit.

3. LABORATORY TEST WORK
During the laboratory test work a suitable resin was selected, the optimum operating pH
determined and adsorption equilibrium isotherms established.

3.1 RESIN SELECTION
The selection of the best resin and associated operating strategy for a specific application
depends primarily on the feed solution composition. For the Anglovaal Mining application,
Co, Ni and Cu had to be recovered from a pulp containing Ni, Co, Cu, Ca, Mg, Al, Fe, Zn
and Mn. The resin that was selected for this investigation was a commercially available
chelating resin. The final resin choice was based on techno-economic comparisons of
potential commercial resins. The resin selectivity order is given below:
Fe
3+
> Cu
2+
> Ni
2+
> Co
2+
> Fe
2+
> Ca
2+
> Mg
2+


The selectivity order indicates that copper, nickel and cobalt load in preference to ferrous,
calcium and magnesium present in the feed, but ferric loads preferentially to all these
metals. Therefore, iron removal will be required prior to RIP, where this resin is employed.

3.2 EFFECT OF pH
The effect of pH on copper loading onto the resin, as shown in Figure 2, was established
using synthetic copper sulphate solution. The pH profile indicates that, at equilibrium pH
values above 2.5, the resin was fully loaded with copper.
0
20
40
60
80
100
1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0
Solution pH
C
u

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l

Figure 2 : Effect of pH on copper loading.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
4

The effect of equilibrium pH on nickel and cobalt loading from the Anglovaal feed solution,
after iron removal, is shown in Figure 3.
0
20
40
60
2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5
Solution pH
N
i

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l
0
1
2
3
C
o

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l
Nickel Cobalt

Figure 3 : Effect of pH on nickel and cobalt loading.

The nickel and cobalt pH profiles were very similar and indicated that both metals
extracted efficiently at pH values higher than 4.5. However, an increase in solution pH
beyond 3, could result in precipitation of copper present in solution. Therefore, the
optimum pH conditions for cobalt and nickel extraction could probably not be used for
copper. For this reason, different process options had to be considered for the recovery of
copper, nickel and cobalt by means of RIP.

3.3 ION EXCHANGE EQUILIBRIUM ISOTHERMS
Ion exchange equilibrium isotherms were established by batch contact of Anglovaal pulp,
after iron removal, with resin at controlled pH. The copper isotherm was determined at pH
2.7 and the nickel and cobalt isotherms at pH 5. Laboratory data and Langmuir isotherm
model fits are shown in Figures 4, 5 and 6 for copper, nickel and cobalt respectively. (Y =
resin loading, g/l; X = solution concentration, mg/l)
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
5
0
15
30
45
60
75
0 200 400 600 800
Solution concentration, mg/l
R
e
s
i
n

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l
Equilibrium data Langmuir model

Figure 4 : Ion exchange equilibrium isotherm for copper loading.
0
20
40
60
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
Solution concentration, mg/l
R
e
s
i
n

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l
Equilibrium data Langmuir model

Figure 5 : Ion exchange equilibrium isotherm for nickel loading
0
1
2
3
0 50 100 150 200 250
Solution concentration, mg/l
R
e
s
i
n

l
o
a
d
i
n
g
,

g
/
l
Equilibrium data Langmuir model

Figure 6 : Ion exchange equilibrium isotherm for cobalt loading

A drop in nickel and cobalt loadings at the higher solution concentrations, where high
solution-to-resin ratios were used, were caused by greater competition from copper for
which the resin has a higher affinity.

Y=1.3X/(1+0.02X)
Y=5.1X/(1+0.11X)
Y=1.6X/(1+0.71X)
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
6
3.4 Process options
Three different process options were evaluated during the mini-plant campaign in order to
determine the most cost-effective option for the recovery of copper, cobalt and nickel from
the Anglovaal Mining slurry. Potential flowsheets for these options are shown in Figure 7.
LEACH
Fe
PRECIPITATION
L/S
Cu
RIP
Ni & Co
RIP
EXISTING
PROCESS
REPULP
OPTION 1
THICKENER
EXISTING
PROCESS
LEACH
Fe
PRECIPITATION
L/S
Cu
RIP
Ni & Co
RIP
REPULP
OPTION 2
THICKENER
LEACH
Fe & PARTIAL Cu
PRECIPITATION
L/S
Ni, Co & Cu
RIP
EXISTING
PROCESS
REPULP
OPTION 3
THICKENER


Figure 7 : Process options evaluated during RIP mini-plant campaign

The leach liquor composition (all three options) is shown in Table 1.

Table 1 : Metal concentration in g/l in leach solution
Ni Co Cu Ca Mg Al Fe Zn Mn
42 2 8 0.6 4 0.3 28 0.1 0.4

Because of the selectivity order of the resin, it was necessary to conduct iron removal,
prior to RIP, in order to reduce the degree of iron co-loading on the resin (as shown for
each option in Figure 7). This is critical in order to limit the CAPEX and operating
expenditure (OPEX) associated with the co-loading of iron. Iron removal for this study was
done in batch. However, the iron removal step will have to be optimised for the full-scale
application to minimise base metal losses.

Since ion exchange resins have a limited capacity for metal loading, the thickened leach
pulp, containing 42 g/l nickel, was unsuitable for nickel RIP. However, the much lower
copper concentration of 8g/l could be considered for direct RIP (Option 1 Figure 7). After
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
7
solid-liquid separation of the high-grade solution from the pulp, the underflow would have a
manageable nickel concentration for nickel and cobalt RIP as a result of dilution during
washing of the solids. The final concentration will depend on the efficiency of washing on
the belt filter. For Process Option 2, different nickel concentrations (3.9 and 1.7 g/l) were
tested. The corresponding copper concentrations for Option 2 are of the order of 0.8 and
0.35 g/l. The feasibility of simultaneous recovery of copper, nickel and cobalt (Process
Option 3) was tested at a nickel concentration of 3.9 g/l.

4. CONTINUOUS MINI-PLANT CAMPAIGN
The mini-plant consisted of a four-stage cascade of contactors, each with an active volume
of 960mL. The resin-pulp mixing in each stage was achieved with mechanical overhead
stirrers. Resin was retained in the contactor by means of a 200 m peripheral screen, and
pulp gravitated through the screens from one stage to the next. During adsorption, the pH
was controlled at the desired set point in each stage. Lime slurry, limestone slurry or any
other alkali may be used for pH control.

In order to minimise the CAPEX associated with the adsorption circuit, pulp and resin
residence times are minimised, whilst resin loading is maximised to limit the OPEX of the
operation. For a carousel operation, physical constraints often restrict the design, e.g. the
time required to drain the first adsorption stage and separate the loaded resin from the
pulp.

4.1 COPPER MINI-PLANT CAMPAIGN
The parameters investigated during the copper mini-plant campaign included:
feed concentration [Figure 7, Option 1 and Option 2];
pulp residence time [Figure 7, Option 2];
resin residence time [Figure 7, Option 2]; and
pulp pH [Figure 7, Option 1 and Option 2].
4.1.1 Copper feed concentration
Two feed concentrations, designated high feed and low feed, were evaluated for the
copper RIP campaign. The copper, nickel and calcium concentrations obtained on the
resin and solution at steady state are shown in Table 2. The pH for adsorption was
controlled at 3 and a pulp residence time of 1 hour per stage was allowed. The resin
residence time for the high feed was 3 hours per stage, while that for the low feed was 4
hours per stage. Resin volumes were adjusted for the feed concentrations to allow for the
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
8
required resin-to-pulp flowrates, with 25%(v/v) resin being used for the high feed and
5%(v/v) for the low feed.
Table 2 : Solution and resin loading profiles
High feed Low feed
Cu Ni Ca Cu Ni Ca
Solution profile, g/l
Feed
Comp. Barren
7.5
0.03
44 0.6

0.8
0.05
3.6 0.6
Resin profile, g/l
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
43
26
8
1
16
26
42
42
0.3
0.4
0.4
0.4
39
28
16
7
17
23
31
31
0.8
0.9
1
1

The high feed copper concentration in the solution phase of the pulp was reduced from 7.5
g/l to 0.03 g/l over 4 adsorption stages. Copper loading on the resin in stage 1 was 43 g/l,
with co-loading of 16 g/l nickel. Calcium co-loading onto the stage 1 (loaded) resin was
around 0.3 g/l, which should not cause any gypsum precipitation problems during a fixed
bed elution with sulphuric acid eluant. The displacement of nickel (from 42 g/l in stages 3
and 4 to 16 g/l in stage 1 for the high feed) by copper can be seen from the resin loading
profile in Table 2.

The low feed copper content was reduced from 0.8 g/l to 0.05 g/l in the composite barren
across 4 adsorption stages. Copper loading on the resin was about 10% less than the
loading obtained with the high feed. Similar nickel co-loadings of around 17 g/l were seen
for the feed solutions containing 42 and 3.6 g/l nickel. Although calcium co-loading
increased to 0.8 g/l, problems with gypsum precipitation during sulphuric acid elution in a
fixed bed are not anticipated.
4.1.2 Effect of pulp and resin residence times
The effects of pulp and resin residence times were tested with the feed containing 0.8 g/l
copper at a pH value of 3. The upgrading ratio of copper from solution onto the resin
determines the relative flowrates of the resin and pulp. Hence, in order to maintain the
resin-to-pulp flowrates required for different pulp residence times, the resin concentrations
were adjusted appropriately. Results are shown in Figure 8 and Table 3.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
9

0.00
0.20
0.40
0.60
0.80
1.00
Feed S1 S2 S3 S4 Barren
C
u

/

C
u

i
n

f
e
e
d
PULP=1h; RESIN=4h PULP=0.5h; RESIN=3h PULP=0.5h; RESIN=2h

Figure 8 : Solution profile

Table 3 : Metal loadings on resin at copper feed tenor of 0.8 g/l

pulp

h

resin

h
Resin concentration
%
Cu
resin
g/l
1
0.5
0.5
4
3
2
5
7.5
5
39
36
34

Results indicate that both the solution and resin residence times affected the resin loading
and the solution profile over the circuit.
4.1.3 Effect of pH
Two pH values were tested for the adsorption of copper, namely 2.5 and 3. The copper
loadings achieved for the feed pulps containing 7.5 and 0.9 g/l copper are shown in Table
4. For each feed concentration, the adsorption circuit pH was varied, whilst pulp and resin
residence times, and resin concentrations, were kept constant.

Table 4 : Effect of pH on copper loading
Cu
feed
, g/l

Cu
resin
, g/l
pH = 2.5 pH = 3
7.5 43 43
0.9 36 41

At the high feed copper concentration of 7.5 g/l, copper loadings of 43 g/l were achieved at
both pH values of 2.5 and 3, while at the lower feed concentration, a pH dependency was
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
10
observed. A final loading of 41 g/l was achieved at pH 3 and a reduced loading of 36 g/l at
pH 2.5.

4.2 NICKEL AND COBALT MINI-PLANT CAMPAIGN
During the mini-plant campaign for simultaneous recovery of nickel and cobalt (Figure 7 -
Options 1 and 2), the parameters evaluated included:
nickel and cobalt feed concentrations ;
pulp and resin residence times; and
pulp pH.
4.2.1 Feed concentration
The feed tenor to the Ni-Co RIP circuit will be determined by the washing efficiency of the
upstream solid-liquid separation step. Two feed concentrations, as shown in Table 5, were
tested.

Table 5 : Feed concentrations for Ni-Co RIP campaign
Metal High Feed, g/l Low Feed, g/l
Ni
Co
Ca
3.8
0.19
0.6
1.7
0.07
0.6

During these tests the pH was controlled at 5 (based on results in Figure 3) and a pulp
residence time of 0.5 hour per stage was allowed. The resin residence time for the high
feed was 2 hours per stage, while 3 hours per stage was allowed for the low feed. Figures
9 and 10 show the average solution profiles at steady state over the circuit for nickel and
cobalt. Average metal loadings on the resin for both feed solutions are listed in Table 6.
For the high feed the resin concentration was 20%(v/v) per stage, while that for the low
feed was 15%(v/v) per stage.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
11
3875
2974
1430
295
32 24 46
1727
1435
926
448
106
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
Feed S1 S2 S3 S4 Barren
N
i

i
n

s
o
l
u
t
i
o
n
,

m
g
/
l
High feed Low feed

Figure 9 : Nickel solution profiles
158
75
14
2 3
68 68
59
38
19
2
189
0
50
100
150
200
Feed S1 S2 S3 S4 Barren
C
o

i
n

s
o
l
u
t
i
o
n
,

m
g
/
l
High feed Low feed

Figure 10 : Cobalt solution profiles

Table 6 : Metal loadings on resin
High feed, g/l Low feed, g/l
Ni Co Ca Ni Co Ca
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
43
31
13
2.7
1.9
1.7
0.8
0.2
1.6
3.5
7
9
43
35
20
6.8
1.6
1.5
1
0.3
3.2
2.8
8
11

Under the conditions employed, the nickel and cobalt concentrations were decreased to
less than 0.05 g/l over 4 contact stages for both feed pulps. Similar nickel loadings of 43
g/l were obtained on the loaded resin for both feed solutions. The solution and resin
profiles for the lower feed concentration indicated that the resin loadings were much closer
to the predicted equilibrium loadings, than were those for the higher feed. This indicated
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
12
that the resin residence time of 2 hours per stage, used during the test with the higher
feed, was insufficient.

The resin showed some selectivity for nickel over cobalt, and the circuit had to be operated
carefully in order to prevent cobalt leakage into the barren. This can be seen from the
solution and resin profiles for the lower feed concentration, where about 17% extraction of
nickel was achieved over stage 1, with no extraction of cobalt over the same stage.

Calcium co-loading of about 1.6 g/l was seen on the loaded resin for the high feed, with co-
loading in excess of 3 g/l for the low feed solution. Calcium co-loading during the copper
trial, which was operated at pH values between 2.5 and 3, was less than 1 g/l in all four
stages. This indicates the pH dependence of calcium loading on the resin. Co-loaded
calcium could cause problems during elution with sulphuric acid and care should be taken
during the design of the elution circuit to avoid gypsum precipitation.
4.2.2 Effect of pulp and resin residence times
The effects of pulp and resin residence times were tested for the high nickel feed (Table
5). Both tests were conducted at a pH of 3. Results are shown in Figure 11 and Table 7.
3783
736
56
5 6
1430
295
32 24
2593
3875
2974
0
1000
2000
3000
4000
5000
Feed S1 S2 S3 S4 Barren
N
i

i
n

s
o
l
u
t
i
o
n
,

m
g
/
l
PULP=1h; RESIN=3.5h PULP=0.5h; RESIN=2.2h

Figure 11 : Solution profile across the mini-plant

Table 7: Metal loadings on resin

pulp

h

resin

h
Resin concentration
%
Ni
resin
g/l
1
0.5
3.5
2.2
20
25
47
43


Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
13
When both the solution and resin residence times were reduced, nickel loading decreased
from 47 g/l to 43 g/l. Results indicated that the barren concentration could probably be
reduced to about 0.05 g/l in three stages if residence times of 1 hour for pulp and 3.5 hours
for resin are allowed. However, the CAPEX saving for a larger plant with one less
adsorption stage will probably not off-set the savings for a plant where the adsorption tank
volumes and total resin inventory are much lower. The final decision on the configuration
of the plant would be based on an economic evaluation taking both CAPEX and OPEX into
account.
4.2.3 Effect of pH
Nickel and cobalt loadings onto the resin at pH values 4 and 5 are shown in Table 8. The
high feed (Table 5) was used at pulp and resin residence times of 1 and 3.5 hours
respectively.

Table 8 : Effect of pH on nickel and cobalt loadings
Metal Resin loading, g/l
pH = 4 pH = 5
Ni
Co
Ca
44
1.9
1.9
48
2
2.3

Results indicated a decrease in nickel, cobalt and calcium loadings when the pH was
reduced from 5 to 4.

4.3 SIMULTANEOUS RECOVERY OF COPPER, NICKEL AND COBALT
A single test was done to determine the feasibility of simultaneous copper, nickel and
cobalt recovery. The high Ni-Co RIP feed pulp (Table 5) was spiked with copper to have
0.8 g/l of copper present, but as a result of the high pH value of 4 copper precipitation
occurred. The circuit was operated at pH 4, because mini-plant results indicated a
relatively small change in nickel and cobalt loadings between pH 5 and 4, and conditions
were aimed at maximising copper re-dissolution over the adsorption circuit. Pulp and resin
residence times of 1 and 3.7 hours respectively, and 25%(v/v) resin, were used per stage.
The solution and resin loading profiles for nickel, cobalt and copper are shown in Table 9.

Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
14
Table 9 : Solution and resin profiles
Feed Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Barren
Solution profile, g/l
Ni
Co
Cu
Ca

3.8
0.21
0.23
[a]

0.6
2.5
0.17
0.04
0.57
0.04
0.006
0.03
0.002
0.002
0.005
0.002
0.002
0.005
0.002
0.002
Resin profile, g/l
Ni
Co
Cu
Ca
36
2.0
6.8
1.9
17
1.2
2.2
4.4
2.7
0.20
0.83
8.8
0.15
0.04
0.27
8.8

[a] 0.8 g/l copper was added to feed the lower concentration was attributed to
precipitation at pH 4.

Recoveries of greater than 99% nickel and cobalt was achieved over 3 contact stages
under the test conditions employed. Based on a feed copper content of 800 mg/l and a
stage 1 loading of 6.8 g/l, the copper recovery was in excess of 77%. However, the
degree of copper recovery would have to be quantified.

5. PLANT SIZING AND PRELIMINARY ECONOMIC ANALYSIS
For calculation of the plant size and preliminary economic feasibility, a filter efficiency of
90% was assumed. During detailed economic evaluation, the overall process should be
considered and options compared to determine the economic optimum with regard to the
solid-liquid separation and RIP. For example, CAPEX to have 98% metal recovery from
the filter vs. the CAPEX for reduced filter capacity followed by RIP with an overall metal
recovery of greater than 99%.

5.1 Plant sizing
The preliminary economic evaluation was based on slurry flowrates of 60 m
3
/h. A three
hour resin transfer time was used, to allow for resin handling. Although only four active
adsorption stages were required for effective metal recovery, a fifth adsorption stage had
to be incorporated during the design of the carousel RIP plant to make provision for resin
handling. The resin concentration was maintained below 25% to limit resin loss through
resin-on-resin attrition. Thus, within these limits, solution residence times and resin
concentrations were adjusted according to the required resin-to-pulp flowrates. The plant
sizings for Options 2 and 3 (Figure 7) are shown in Table 10.
Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
15
The total resin inventory comprised:
the required resin volume in each adsorption stage to allow for adsorption of the total
load of metal in the feed; and
two equivalent resin volumes in the elution circuit to allow sufficient time to drain
stage 1, separate the resin from the pulp, and elute and wash the resin.

Table 10 : Summary of important sizing parameters for RIP circuits
2 separate plants 1 plant
Figure 7
Option 2
Cu
Figure 7
Options 1&2
Ni-Co
Figure 7
Option 3
Ni-Co-Cu
Feed:
Cu
Ni
Co
Flowrate
% solids

g/l
g/l
g/l
m
3
/h


0.9
3.8
0.2
60
25

0.05
3.8
[a]
0.2
[a]
60
25

0.9
3.8
0.2
60
25
RIP:
Pulp residence time per stage
Number of stages
Active volume
Resin volume

h

m
3

m
3
/stage

0.5
5
41
3.6

0.65
5
59
15

0.75
5
72
17
[a] Ni recovery in Cu RIP excluded

5.2 CAPEX calculation
A CAPEX estimate was prepared (to within 15% accuracy) by Grinaker-LTA Process
Engineering, during February/March 2001, for a RIP plant employing adsorption tanks with
an active volume of 80m
3
. This CAPEX was scaled using the six-tenths factor rule, using
the adsorption tank active volumes as a basis, in order to obtain an indication of the
CAPEX requirement for the current RIP application. The resin inventory requirement was
based on the resin loadings obtained during the mini-plant campaign. The scaled CAPEX
figures for the three design scenarios are presented in Table 11.

Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
16
Table 11 : Scaled CAPEX for the three proposed RIP plants.
CAPEX item Figure 7
Option 2
Cu
Figure 7
Options 1&2
Ni-Co
Figure 7
Option 3
Ni-Co-Cu
Scaled plant CAPEX (R
[a]
, million) 13 16.1 18.1
Actual resin CAPEX (R, million)
[b]
1.3 5.1 6.1
TOTAL CAPEX (R, million) 14.3 21.2 24.2
[a] South African Rand [b] Resin cost = R58 500/m
3


5.3 Revenue
The revenue was calculated using the following metal tonnage and prices:
Cu 400 tonne/annum at R 13 000/tonne
Ni 1 750 tonne/annum at R 55 000/tonne
Co 90 tonne/annum at R140 000/tonne
An exchange rate of R8/US$ was used for revenue and OPEX calculations, which was the
exchange rate at the time of the CAPEX estimate. It was decided that, because the eluate
produced by the resin-in-pulp circuit must undergo further treatment before a saleable
product is formed, the revenue should be discounted by 20%.

5.4 OPEX calculation
The following components were considered for the OPEX calculations:
Eluant consumption
Resin could be eluted with fresh H
2
SO
4
, spent electrolyte or solvent extraction raffinate.
For this evaluation a consumption of 1.2 moles of fresh sulphuric acid per litre of resin was
used at a cost of R360/tonne (as 98% sulphuric acid). However, it may be argued that
acid consumption for elution may not be considered an operating expense, owing to the
fact that each mole of copper, nickel or cobalt returned to a solvent extraction
electrowinning plant would produce an equivalent amount of acid. In this case, the
sulphuric acid cost will only be that associated with the stripping of co-loaded impurities.
Limestone consumption
The limestone consumption for neutralisation during adsorption was taken to be 1.2 moles
per litre of resin at a price of R110/tonne. It can also be argued that the neutralising agent
may be omitted as an OPEX, owing to the fact that the CCD underflow would have to be
neutralised and the metals precipitated prior to disposal even in the absence of a RIP
plant.


Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
17
Resin replacement
During the operation of the RIP plant, resin will be lost due to degradation and handling.
Resin losses should be determined on a relatively large scale for a specific application. A
replacement figure of 50% of the inventory per annum was used for the purposes of the
OPEX calculations.
Metal losses
For the Cu RIP plant a metal loss of 0.05 g/l (6%) in the barren exiting the adsorption
cascade was assumed. For the Ni-Co and Ni-Co-Cu RIP circuits, a nickel loss of 0.05 g/l
was assumed in the barren. This translated to a 1.3% nickel loss, which is the figure that
was also used for cobalt loss for the Ni-Co RIP and cobalt and copper losses for the Ni-
Co-Cu RIP circuits. The metal prices used for these calculations are given in Section 5.3.

The OPEX associated with reagents and potential metal loss in the RIP operation is shown
in Table 12. Eluant and limestone consumptions, and resin replacement are a function of
the level of resin loading, which in turn is dependent on the feed concentration.

Table 12 : Reagent cost breakdown
Figure 7
Option 2
Cu
R/tonne Cu
Figure 7
Options 1&2
Ni-Co
R/tonne Ni
Figure 7
Option 3
Ni-Co-Cu
R/tonne Ni
Eluant
Limestone
Resin replacement
Metal loss (barren)

TOTAL REAGENTS
1 000
1 200
2 300
900

5 400
900
1 200
2 200
1 100

5 400
1 100
1 400
2 600
1 200

6 400

5.5 Cash flow analysis
Cash flow analysis was conducted in order to obtain an indication of the payback periods
and the internal rates of return of the proposed RIP plants. The composition of the
breakdown of the total CAPEX, as well as the associated depreciation schedule, is shown
in Table 13.

Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
18
Table 13 : CAPEX composition and depreciation schedule
CAPEX item Percentage of total Depreciation schedule
Buildings 10% Not depreciated
Productive plant 80% Written off at 20% per annum over 5 years
Permanent works 10% Written off at 5% per year over 20 years

In addition, the cash flow analysis was subject to the following assumptions:
Tax rate was taken as 35%.
Discount factor was taken as 10%.
Life of plant was taken as 10 years.
No variation in the metal and reagent prices was taken into account.
Working capital was calculated as 10% of the total CAPEX [4].

The results of the cash flow analysis, carried out for each option, are presented in Table
14.
Table 14 : Cash flow analysis of the proposed RIP plants.
Parameter Figure 7
Option 2
Cu
Figure 7
Options 1&2
Ni-Co
Figure 7
Option 3
Cu-Ni-Co
Payback period (years) > 10.0 <1 <1

This preliminary evaluation indicates that RIP for copper, nickel and cobalt recovery could
be economically viable and justifies further investigation. The copper RIP plant (Option 2)
cannot pay for itself at the copper tonnage and price used for the evaluation. However, a
combination of the two plants or the simultaneous recovery of copper, nickel and cobalt in
a single RIP plant, will be economical with payback periods of less than a year for both
options. For a greenfields application, it may also be more economical to reduce the filter
requirements, while recovering more of the metal in the RIP unit operation. Incorporating
environmental benefits into the economic evaluation will further improve the viability of RIP
for copper, nickel and cobalt recovery.

6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This paper is published by permission of Mintek and Anglovaal Mining.

Cobalt, Nickel and Copper recovery with RIP
19
7. REFERENCES
1. Green B.R., Kotze M.H., and Engelbrecht J..P. (1998) Resin-in-pulp - After gold, where
next? EPD Congress, San Antonio, Texas. B. Mishra (ed.). The Minerals, Metals and
Materials Society, Warrendale, Pennsylvania. (Pages 119-136)
2. Taylor M.J.C., Green B.R., Wyethe J.P., Padayachee D.P. and Mdlalose K.E. (2000)
Recovery of vanadium from waste solids and solutions using an ion exchange process.
MINPREX 2000, Melbourne, Victoria.
3. Greager I.P, Wyethe J.P., Kotze M.H., Dew D., Miller D. (2001) A resin-in-pulp process
for the recovery of copper from bioleach CCD underflows. Copper Cobalt Nickel and
Zinc Recovery Conference, The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in
collaboration with The Institution of Mining and Metallurgy (Zimbabwe Branch), Victoria
Falls, Zimbabwe.
4. Peters M.S. and Timmerhaus K.D. (1991) Plant design and economics for chemical
engineers. Mc-Graw-Hill Book Company. Fourth edition.

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