ECONOMICS OF REFRACTORY GOLD ORE PROCESSES

John E. Litz and R. Wayne Carter

119th TMS Annual Meeting
February 18-22, 1990

Hazen Research, Inc.
4601 Indiana Street
Golden, Colorado 80403

Abstract

Refractory gold ore pretreatment processes continue to receive much attention. This
paper compares the relative economics of treating ores by oxygen pressure oxidation,
roasting and bacterial oxidation with or without preconcentration by froth flotation.
Capital and operating cost estimates for each method of pretreatment were prepared and
these estimated costs and ore sulfide grades then are used to compare the process
economics.

The study indicates that the most significant item affecting the economics is the
amenability of the ore to flotation. The cost benefits of flotation are $10-13 per tonne
ore processed (2%-4% Sa, 10:1 ratio of concentration). In most cases bacterial oxidation
has the lowest overall cost, especially if less than complete oxidation of the sulfides will
give acceptable recovery, however bacterial oxidation has yet to be practiced on a large
scale. In all situations pressure oxidation shows the highest cost. However, the cost
differences between the treatments are small, less than $7 per tonne.

These processes. . These are not considered in this paper since their applicability is limited. Bacterial oxidation Oxygen pressure oxidation Roasting This paper is restricted to comparing the economics of biological oxidation. However. oxygen pressure oxidation (Cashman) Nitric acid catalyzed oxidation (Nitrox. Redox) The chloride and nitric catalyzed processes have excellent technical merit. oxygen pressure oxidation and roasting. It is the bottom line which is most important to the gold producer. they are not considered in this paper.2 INTRODUCTION Refractory gold ores present a number of problems to the gold producer. and in cases of ores with very low sulfide content. Much has been written about the suitability of particular pretreatment processes for specific gold ores. These include: Alkaline air oxidation Chlorination Chlorination and alkaline air oxidation tend to be the lowest capital cost pretreatment methods. This experience gives us the background necessary to compare the available processes on their technical merit. DISCUSSION Potential Processes A number of processes have been applied to the treatment of refractory ores and concentrates. Chloride catalyzed. technical merit does not necessarily translate to the bottom line. Therefore. they also can have very low operating costs. however. We at Hazen Research have had the opportunity to participate in the development and application of a number of gold ore processes and to review others' results from applying processes to gold ores. but as yet have not been thoroughly tested at either pilot or commercial scale. do not have wide application as only a few ore types show good response to them.

if 80% oxidation of the sulfide and 5% utilization of the oxygen in the air are assumed. The oxygen pressure oxidation of total ore uses a 40% solids feed and uses heat exchangers on both the flashed slurry and vapor to preheat the autoclave feed prior to oxidation at 200°C for 90 minutes. cyanidation of flotation concentrates. The effect of concentrating by means of flotation also was investigated in each process. and cyanidation of either total ore or flotation concentrates after oxidative pretreatment. The venting air contains sufficient heat that no additional heating or cooling is required to maintain the desired 35°C operating temperature. Process flowsheets were r--- developed for each of the three pretreatment processes. The BASIC PROCESS FLOWSHEET steps essentially include crushing and grinding. The biological oxidation process uses an initial 20% solids content. Oxygen utilization during leaching is assumed at 80%. The cases considered total ore cyanidation. The flashed slurry is neutralized and cooled to 40°C prior to cyanidation. 3 and 4. 90% recovery of the FIGURE 1 sulfide into 10% of the weight was assumed. These flowsheets are shown in Figures 2. For the cases which included flotation. Others have shown that 50 to 80% sulfide oxidation is suitable for good liberation of the gold and that oxygen utilization greater than 5% is difficult to achieve. followed by cyanidation and CIP recovery of the gold. 3 Basis of Costing The basic process evaluated is shown in Figure 1. In the case of the . A series of cases then was developed using ores containing 2 and 4% sulfide L _ sulfur.

~ THICKENER TH ICKEHE" r NEUTRAL PULP TO CYANIDATION FEED PREPARATION HYDRATED LIME COOLING WATER NEUTRALIZATION BIO-OXIDATION BLOWER FIGURE 2 . ± BACTERIAL OXIDATION FLOWSHEET FEED SLURRY TO ~ FLOCCULANT GRIND .

HYDRATED LIME 11-11 COOLING TOWER NEUTRALIZATION OXYGEN FIGURE 3 . I HEAT TO GRIND~ EXCHANGER HEAT EXCHANGER I j~ Ihl THICKEN£R WATER lr- ~ FLOCCULANT FEED PREPARATION _ I' I J ~ 'I _ OVERFLOW TO RECYCLE THICKENER NEUTRAL PULP TO CYANIDATION r... PRESSURE OXIDATION FLOWSHEET TO ATMOSPHERE FEED SLURRY ~ .

. FLUID BED ROASTING FLOWSHEET TO ATMOSPHERE SLURRY FEED ~ .i HYDRA TED TO GRIND ----}l ~ ~ ~ LIME THICKENER BLEED DUST SCRUBBER FEED PREPARATION NEUTRAL PULP TO CYANIDATION CYCLONE FUEL COOLI NG TOWER NEUTRALIZATION FIGURE 4 . .

We have assumed low power type agitation in vertical tanks having 48-hours retention for the oxidation. Assumptions used in preparing the estimates were that the plant would be sited in central Nevada. Table 2 lists the operating costs for the cases listed in Table 1. The pretreatment portions were costed by pricing the major equipment items and factoring the installed costs. No costs for tailings disposal are included as such costs are too site-specific for inclusion in a general study. . The air volume used in all cases is sufficient to leave 4-5% oxygen in the roaster off-gas. preheating is not required and the oxygen leach temperature is controlled by reducing the feed density to 17% solids with the 2% sulfide ore and <10% solids with the 4% sulfide ore. The quenched slurry is neutralized and cooled to 40°C prior to cyanidation. whereas the operating costs for the treatment steps were estimated separately for each size and type of process. The costs were developed using the United States Bureau of Mines Costing Handbook for the crushing. Operating costs then were estimated for each size and type process. leaching and CIP circuits were determined using the Bureau of Mines Handbook. Operating costs for the crushing. dry grinding to 10-mesh is assumed prior to roasting. and fuel oil would be the source of thermal energy. flotation. flotation. The mass and energy balances then served as the basis for preparing a series of capital and operating cost estimates. Preparation of Costs Mass and energy balances using the METSIM Process Simulation software were prepared for each oxidation process and each sulfur level with and without flotation. grinding. we made an estimate for the equipment which we felt would accomplish the oxidation. When total ore is used. A fluidized cooler on the bed overflow is used to preheat the combustion and oxidation air in all cases except the concentrate from 4% sulfide ore. high sulfur fuel oil when necessary to reach the 650°C operating temperature. grinding. Since at this time there is no "standard" commercial apparatus for the biological oxidation. Table 1 shows the capital cost estimates determined for treating 2000 tonnes of 2% sulfide sulfur total ore per day by all three pretreatment methods after flotation to produce 200 tonnes of concentrate. 7 concentrate oxidation. power would be available at the property line. cyanidation and CIP portions of the flowsheets. The operating costs assume that the ore is not acid consuming and that lime will be required to neutralize all acid or sulfur dioxide produced during the preoxidation. The roasting cases utilize low cost.

488 194 56 20% 6.612 22.145 Roasting 3.244 4.024 2.955 Oxid.637 2.855 2.855 2.027 1.702 4.472 16.488 5.048 16.855 6.387 4.093 3.472 5.387 19.914 3.810 22.M Pressure ~1§Q Oxidation 194 194 952 380 380 640 176 65 640 332 591 176 1. 2000 tonnes Flotation per day.244 ----B1 1.488 12.869 2.321 Oxid.M Bacterial 380 640 591 176 2.699 18.657 19.612 80%14.890 952 332 103 65 213 622 222 --. 2.445 19.845 5.837 2. concentrate 2% sulfide ore (OOO'sdollars) Table 1 Estimated Capital Costs Oxygen .612 2. 8 56 332 103 591 622 213 222 213 222 ---.890 3.

70 0.08 0.10 0.33 1.33 6.27 0.05 1.18 15.21 20% Oxid.2% Sulfide Ore (Dollars/tonne) Estimated Oxygen Costs Operating .30 7.75 0.80 0.29 0.02 0.10 0.79 0.19 Roasting: 1.01 1.12 0.85 9 2000 TPD .80 1.09 0.85 1.85 0.18 0.04 0.86 2.54 7. 2.95 8.01 0.02 1.15 4.74 0.54 3.07 0.97 0.07 1.38 4. 0.18 0.05 1.37 0.08 Bacterial 1.74 1.30 10. 8.27 4.33 80% Oxid.33 0.29 1.30 Pressure Oxidation 16.66 14.25 0.08 0.37 0.21 1.

the costs decrease the most with ~.'. 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 lilt FIGURE 8 .10 The data generated from the capital and COMPARISON OF CAPITAL COSTS operating cost estimates were used to 2% SULFIDE generate a number of graphs which compare the costs for the various treatment processes at differing tonnages.. ~fl'ERDAY FIGURE 5 The operating costs for treating the same are are graphed in COMPARISON OF OPERATING COSTS Figure 6. costs for pressure leaching L oA T N E $35 p 0 5 0 L E A A N $15$20 remain high regardless of the tonnage. Figure 5 "I compares the capital o o L L L costs for a plant to L A 0 I treat a 2% sulfide A 5 5 N sulfur bearing are.. .'. Because of 2% SULFIDE high reagent requirements. Since $10 $30 $25 biological oxidation requires the least reagent...' increasing tonnage.. SIZE.. The capital costs are very similar at the 500 te/d rate and show about a 10% spread at 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 4000 te/d.

FIGURE 7 The inclusion of flotation to the process reduces the capital costs significantly. bacterial oxidation and roasting. ... reduces the total o L L L L . but by 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 only $3-4 dollars per SUE. S S $1 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 SIZE. COMPARISON OF CAPITAL COSTS Figure 8 compares the 2% SULFIDE WITH FLOTATION capital costs for plants which include flotation as well as oxidative pretreatment by oxygen pressure. capital costs about A 0 R N 50%. 'fCNrEB PER DAY tonne. Flotation o . 11 The bottom line includes the recovery of capital. the roasting L L costs are a few dollars A R S per tonne less than pressure leaching. TCNEII PER DAY . When the p recovery of capital is o o E R included. Figure 7 includes a four-year recovery of capital with the operating costs in comparing the processes. which often COMPARISON OF OPERATING PLUS can be the most CAPITAL RECOVERY COSTS significant per tonne FOR 2% SULFIDE cost. Biological oxidation has the lowest cost at all tonnages.

TCNM:S PEA DAY FIGURE • Figure 10 compares operating plus capital recovery costs for roasting 2% sulfide COMPARISON OF OPERATING PLUS sulfur total ore and CAPITAL RECOVERY COSTS concentrates derived therefrom. FOR 2% SULFIDE WITH FLOTATION Figure 10 also shows $40 that when flotation is $35 used. 2% SULFIDE WITH FLOTATION Figure 9 shows that at high tonnages the total operating costs with flotation are only $14- 18/tonne versus $16- 22/tonne with whole p ore. the overall costs for the three types of $30 pretreatment converge $25 as the tonnage T increases to 4000 te/d. o E OR L L T A 0 R N S N E 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 SIZE.12 Concentrating the ore by flotation COMPARISON OF OPERATING COSTS significantly reduces the operating costs. ~ $20 e $15 $10 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 FIGURE 10 .

1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 F1Gl. This graph shows how ? flotation dramatically ) " E R reduces the overall L L T A 0 costs to only $20/tonne " 5 N N at 4000 te/d versus E $27-32/tonne with whole ore. 13 The effect of flotation on the costs is EFFECT OF FLOTATION ON OPERATING PLUS illustrated in Figure CAPITAL RECOVERY COSTS USING 810- 11 which compares OXIDATION AND ROASTING ON 2% SULFIDE operating plus capital recovery for ClP. As shown in RECOVERY COSTS Figure 12. L A 0 R T N 5 N E 1000 1500 2000 2500 3000 3500 4000 FIGURE 12 . the increase in costs when the sulfide doubles from 2 to 4% ranges from only $2 per tonne for roasting to $5-10 per o p E tonne for bacterial o L R oxidation.II£ 11 The sulfide sulfur content of the ore has significant impact on EFFECT OF SULFUR CONTENT ON the operating costs OPERATING PLUS CAPITAL pius recovery of capital. roasting and biological oxidation.