You are on page 1of 6

Paper No.

674

COLUMN LEACHING OF A COPPER OXIDE


ORE
D Moradkhani 1, R Safari1, B Sedaghat 2, * and M Rajaie Najafabadi3
ABSTRACT
The heap leaching of oxide copper ores with copper cathode recovery by solvent extraction and
electrowinning is now well established as a low-cost method of copper recovery. The main purpose of
this study was to extract copper from the copper low-grade oxide ore of Chodarchaei mine using
column leaching. The copper oxide ore contained 1.1% Cu and 1.75% Fe. The mineralogical analysis
indicated the malachite (Cu 2 (OH) 2 CO 3 ) was mainly composed of oxidized phases. The sulfuric acid
leaching experiments were performed under the laboratory conditions. The influence of several
parameters on the course of the reaction such as particle size, acid concentration, flow rate, and time
was examined. The optimum collective extraction of copper and iron was obtained at a particle size of
+10-15 mm for a leaching duration of 3 days with sulfuric acid concentration of 100 gpl and using a
flow rate of 2.5 cc/min. Under these conditions, the recovery of copper and iron were 98.54% and
41.99%, respectively.
Keywords: column leaching, copper, iron, working diagram.

INTRODUCTION
Copper is used in a vast variety of products in domestic and industrial domains as thermal and electrical
conductor and as a constituent of various metal alloys. Copper is also used in chemical industry as catalyst in the
oxidative conversion of ethyl acetate in water (Armbruster et al, 2001), hydrogen production by partial oxidation of
methanol (Wang et al, 2003), liquid-phase oxidation of benzene to phenol (Miyahara et al, 2001), carbon
monoxide oxidation (Taylor et al, 1999) and in removal of NOx and SOx from flue gases (Macken et al, 2000).
Whereas sulfidic copper ores are mainly treated by pyrometallurgical processes; oxidic ores are treated by
hydrometallurgical processes. Leaching of copper from ores has focused mainly on oxide ore types (Woods,
2010). Oxide ore cannot be treated by pyrometallurgical processes because they would be very noncommercial
(Sheffer and Evans, 1968).
Heap leaching, solvent extraction and electrowinning (HLXSXEW) processes have become increasingly
important to concentrate, purify, and separate metal ions and inorganic salts. The most common commercial
application of these processes is in the copper industry (Kordosky, 1992). Approximately 20% of worlds copper
productions are gained by hydrometallurgical leaching processes, mainly by heap leaching with sulfuric acid and
subsequent solvent extraction (SX) and electro winning (EW) treatment. Although oxide ore is preferred in
leaching mineralization, many operations also leach sulphide ores as well. A large number of commercial SX/EW
plants have been successfully commissioned all over the world in the last two decades (Arbiter et al, 1994) and
over 90% of them are located in North and South America. For example, in Chile, the total SX/EW copper
produced reached 1400 thousand tons during 1999, representing almost one half of the total electrolytic copper
produced (Pezoa, 1999).
Although a number of experimental studies have been carried out which have allowed a better understanding of
the phenomenon and the operation of heap leaching (Wu et al, 2007; Yorio et al, 2006; Petersen and Dixon,
2007; Leahy et al, 2007), few studies have been carried out with the objective of optimizing the process.

1. Faculty of Engineering, Zanjan University, Zanjan, Iran.


2. Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. Email: beh_sed@yahoo.com
3. Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran.

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04809

MORADKHANI et al

Heap leaching/SX/EW has more recently been applied successfully to mixed oxide and chalcocite ores, notably in
Chile at Cerro Colorado, Quebrada Blanca and Zaldivar. Currently, there are significant development efforts
underway to try to extend heap leaching to chalcopyrite ores. The success of heap leaching/SX/EW has also led
to a revival in the development of hydrometallurgical processes to recover copper from chalcopyrite and other
copper concentrates (Taylor, 1995).
In the present work, the extraction behavior of copper and iron from copper oxide ore has been studied using
column leaching. The effect of variables such as particle size, acid concentration, flow rate and time on the
reaction rate was studied.

MATERIALS AND METHODES


Materials and Reagents
The copper oxide ore used in this research was collected from the Chodarchaei mine, northeast of Zanjan. The
chemical analysis was carried out by AAS (Perkin-Elmer AA300 atomic absorption spectrometry) and XRF. Table
1 summarizes the chemical composition of the copper ore used in the experiments.
Table 1. Chemical composition of sample used in the experiment (Wt.%)
Component

Cu

Fe

Pb

Al

Mg

Si

Zn

+1-5 mm

1.06

1.74

0.17

14.10

0.84

3.77

31.67

0.15

+5-10 mm

1.14

1.81

0.16

12.80

0.70

3.46

30.51

0.14

+10-15 mm

1.13

1.70

0.16

13.79

0.66

3.59

34.45

0.13

Column leaching of copper oxide ore were examined in which four parameters of particle size, acid concentration,
flow rate and time were studied. For each parameter three levels were chosen as shown in Table 2.
Table 2. Special parameters in column leaching treatment
Parameters

Units

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Flow rate

cc/min

2.5

7.5

Acid concentration

g/l

40

70

100

Particle size

mm

+1-5

+5-10

+10-15

time

day

Experimental Method
Column leaching was chosen for a simulation of natural situation. This test consisted of 6 cylindrical glasses with
a diameter of 6 cm and height of 50 cm. The columns were filled of 1400 gr dry copper oxide ore, and 2-4 cm
layer of washed and dried sand with a Whatman paper was put on the top of the samples. A supply system was
employed for adding acid solution at the top of the column and outflow system was made for the leach out
solution. The output solutions were analyzed for Cu and Fe content.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


Influence of flow rate
Figure 1 shows the influence of the flow rate on the copper and iron extraction rates. Increasing the flow rate
decreased the dissolution of copper. Three flow rates of 2.5, 5 and 7.5 cc/min were selected. In general, flow rate
of 2.5 cc/min seemed to yield satisfactory results. The maximum recovery of Cu and Fe after three days with the
flow rate of 2.5 ml/min was achieved 93.11% and 33.85%, respectively. Therefore, to investigate the other
leaching parameters, the flow rate of 2.5cc/min was chosen for the optimum leaching flow rate.

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04810

COLUMN LEACHING OF A COPPER OXIDE ORE

Figure 1. Effect of flow rate on the copper and iron concentration and recovery (particle size: +5-10 mm; acid
concentration: 70 g/l)

Influence of particle size


Figure 2 shows the recovery of Cu and Fe for different particle size of the column leaching. Particle size was
investigated against time in the range of 1-15 mm. As shown in Figure 2, results indicated that the recovery of
copper decreased with increasing particle size to +1-5 mm. There is no significant effect of particle size on copper
ore recovery after 6 days of leaching which the recovery of copper was stable. This means that the copper
content of the ore has ended. The maximum recovery of copper and recovery of iron for +10-15 mm after three
days was 94.34% and 39.51%, respectively. Therefore, the particle size of +10-15 mm was chosen for the best
leaching particle size.

Figure 2. Effect of particle size on the copper and iron concentration and recovery (acid concentration: 70 g/l; flow
rate: 2.5 cc/min)

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04811

MORADKHANI et al

Influence of acid concentration


Experiments were carried out to investigate the effect of acid concentration on the copper ore dissolution. The
effect of acid concentration on the recovery of copper and iron is shown in Figure 3. The effect of acid
concentration was studied over the range of 40-100 g/l. Copper and iron cumulative recovery increased with the
increasing of acid concentration and it reached a maximum level after 3 days. The maximum recovery of Cu and
Fe for acid concentration of 100 g/l after three days achieved 98.54% and 41.99%, respectively. It seems that 100
g/l is suitable as optimum acid concentration.

Figure 3. Effect of acid concentration on the copper and iron concentration and recovery (particle size: +10-15
mm; flow rate: 2.5cc/min)

Working Diagram
The process starts with the crushing and grinding of Copper oxide ore. Since these processes are classified as
mineral processing operations. The ground material is collected in large heaps, which are sprayed with an acid
solution to dissolve out the metal from the ore. The metal is transferred to the aqueous phase, called the pregnant
leach solution (PLS). After the leaching stage, the solution contains impurities, which have to be removed. A
simplified flow diagram of the process is shown in Figure 4.
The solvent extraction stage decreases the proportion of impurities and concentrates the solution. The metal ions
are selectively removed from the aqueous PLS via the organic phase and pass back into the aqueous phase. The
flow is divided between several parallel SX trains. Extraction and stripping, i.e. the transfer of metal ions into the
organic phase and back into the aqueous phase are performed within the mixer-settlers. In the mixer, the organic
and aqueous phases are brought into close contact with each other by dispersing the organic or aqueous phases
into droplets, a few millimetres in size within another phase. After mixing, the two phases are separated in large
settlers by gravity. To improve the overall efficiency of the transfer of metal from the aqueous solution, the solvent
extraction process has internal recycling and some material is returned to the leaching stage.

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04812

COLUMN LEACHING OF A COPPER OXIDE ORE

Copper Oxide Ore

Heap Leaching

Pregnant
Solution

Organic Stream
Extraction 2

Extraction 1
Aqueous Stream

Loaded Organic

Stripped Organic
Stripping

Rich Electrolyte
Copper

Raffinate

Poor Electrolyte

Electrowinning

Figure 4. Flow diagram of an HLXSXEW process

CONCLUSIONS
In this research, the copper oxide ore used was obtained from the Chodarchaei mine, Iran. Experiments were
carried out to investigate the effects of flow rate, acid concentration, particle size and time on copper and iron
recovery using column leaching. A maximum recovery of copper and minimum recovery of iron was obtained in
following condition: particle size of +10-15 mm for a leaching duration of 3 day with sulfuric acid concentration of
100 gpl and using a flow rate of 2.5 cc/min. Under these conditions, the recovery of copper and iron were 98.54%
and 41.99%, respectively. Heap leaching/SX/EW can be used as hydrometallurgical processes to recover copper
from Chodarchaei oxide ore.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors are thankful to the Research and Engineering Co. for Non-Ferrous Metals for financial and technical
support and the permission to publish this paper.

REFERENCES
Arbiter, N., Fletcher, A. W., Copper, A., 1994. Hydrometallurgy evolution and milestones, in Mining Engineering,
46(2), pp 118123.
Armbruster, U., Martin, A., Krepel, A., 2001. Hydrolysis and oxidative decomposition of ethyl acetate in sub and
super-critical water, in Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 31, pp 263273.
Kordosky, G. A., 1992. Copper solvent extraction, the state of the art. in Journal of Mining, 44, pp 4045.
Leahy, M.J., Davidson, M.R., Schwarz, M.P., 2007. A model for heap bioleaching of chalcocite with heat balance:
mesophiles and moderate thermophiles. in Hydrometallurgy, 85, 1, pp 2441.
Macken, C., Hodnett, B.K., Paparatto, G., 2000. Testing of the CuO/Al 2 O 3 CatalystSorbent in extended
operation for the simultaneous removal of NOx and SO 2 from flue gases, in Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 39 pp 3868
3874.
Miyahara, T., Kanzaki, H., Hamadab, R., Kuroiwa, S., Nishiyama, S., Tsuruya, S.,2001. Liquid-phase oxidation of
benzene to phenol by CuO-Al 2 O 3 catalysts prepared by co-precipitation method, in J. Mol. Catal. A: Chem.
176, pp 141150.

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04813

MORADKHANI et al

Petersen, J., Dixon, D.G., 2007. Modeling zinc heap bioleaching, in Hydrometallurgy, 85, 24, pp 127143.
Pezoa, A., 1999. Panorama de la Panorama de la Hidrometalurgia del Cobre, Resumen de Proyectos SX/EW en
Chile. Mineral Chilena 218, pp 4353.
Sheffer, Herman W.; Evans, LaMar G., 1968. Copper leaching practices in the Western United States, in U.S.
Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Mines.
Taylor, A., 1995. Copper leach/SX/EW project development, in Alta Metallurgical Services, Brisbane, Australia.
Taylor, S.H., Hutchings, G.J., Mirzaei, A.A., 1999. Copper zinc oxide catalysts for ambient temperature carbon
monoxide oxidation, in Chem. Commun., pp 13731374.
Wang, Z., Xi, J., Wang, W., Lu, G., 2003. Selective production of hydrogen by partial oxidation of methanol over
Cu/Cr catalysts, in J. Mol. Catal. A: Chem. 191, pp 123134.
Woods, R., 2010. Extracting metals from sulfids ores, in School of Science, Griffith University, Nathan,
Queensland 4111, Australia.
Wu, A.X., Yin, S.H., Yang, B.H., Wang, J., Qiu, G.Z., 2007. Study on preferential flow in dump leaching of lowgrade ores, in Hydrometallurgy, 87, 34, pp.124132.
Yorio, C., Betancourt, E., Vivas, R., Rus, J., 2006. Ni, Co recovery study and Fe by acid leaching in columns, in
Revista de Metalurgia, 42, 1, pp.4148.

XXVI INTERNATIONAL MINERAL PROCESSING CONGRESS (IMPC) 2012 PROCEEDINGS / NEW DELHI, INDIA / 24 - 28 SEPTEMBER 2012

04814