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Hydrometallurgy 58 2000. 2741 www.elsevier.


Analysis of heat conservation during copper sulphide heap leaching

David G. Dixon
Department of Metals and Materials Engineering, Uniersity of British Columbia, 309-6350 Stores Road, Vancouer, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4 Received 1 November 1999; received in revised form 31 March 2000; accepted 24 May 2000

Abstract An analysis of heat conservation during copper sulphide heap leaching has been carried out with the aid of a computer model. As a result, a new mode of heap behaviour called Aevaporative autocatalysisB is postulated. In this mode, air is blown upward through the heap at a rate sufficient to drive the net advection of heat upward through the heap, resulting in much higher and more uniform internal heap temperatures than can be achieved in the absence of forced aeration. The effects of flow rate, heat generation rate, solution and air heating, and application of an evaporation shield to the heap surface are also investigated. q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Heat conservation; Copper sulphide; Heap leaching

1. Introduction Bacterial heap leaching of secondary copper sulphides, both with and without prior agglomeration and acid curing, is one of the most important emerging technologies for the treatment of secondary copper sulphide and mixed sulphideroxide ores. Currently, a host of companies operates such heaps, primarily in Chile, and several more large operations are in development. Unfortunately, the process has been plagued with problems, often leading to lower than anticipated copper extractions and low rates of extraction, thereby necessitating heaps much larger and more costly to operate than anticipated in order to meet copper production quotas. Also, the basis for design of these operations remains almost entirely anecdotal. Hence, each new installation involves expensive testing and piloting campaigns, and scale-up remains problematic.

A pressing need exists for a better understanding of the biological, chemical, and mass and heat transport phenomena involved in bacterial heap leaching processes, and how these factors interact. Key to this understanding is the development of a robust mathematical model of the process which can be validated in the laboratory and in on-site pilot-scale tests. As a first step in this process, the author has developed a robust, 1D computer model of heat transport in heaps. Heat transport is especially important in copper sulphide heap leaching, in which one or more highly exothermic sulphide oxidation reactions take place, for several reasons. First, the bacteria which catalyze the oxidation reactions are sensitive to temperature. For example, the most common microbial species associated with bioleaching, Thiobacillus ferrooxidans, is a mesophile which thrives at temperatures in the neighbourhood of 308C, but which becomes inactive at temperatures below

0169-4332r00r$ - see front matter q 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 3 0 4 - 3 8 6 X 0 0 . 0 0 1 1 9 - 5


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

about 108C, or above about 408C. On the other hand, moderate thermophiles such as Sulfolobus can thrive at temperatures as high as 658C, but may have more stringent toxicological requirements than Thiobacillus. Secondly, many oxidation reactions central to copper recovery from secondary ores are strongly temperature-dependent. For example, arguably the most important reaction from an economic standpoint is the oxidation of so-called Ablue remainingB covellite, or blaubleibender, which is the intermediate product of chalcocite oxidation. Chalcocite typically comprises the bulk of the copper in secondary copper sulphide ores, and is therefore the prime target of copper sulphide heap leaching. In acid ferric sulphate solutions, chalcocite is oxidized by ferric ions in two major steps: Cu 2 S q 2Fe 3q

CuSq 2Fe 3q

Cu Cu


q CuSq 2Fe 2q , q S 0 q 2Fe 2q ,

A. B.


stance, in the high Chilean desert, heat loss from the heap surface by evaporation during the hot, dry days, and by radiation during the cold, clear nights can have a dramatic effect on heap performance by holding heap temperatures below the range for effective bioleaching. On the other hand, a heap in a more moderate climate with a high pyrite content may be subject to overheating. In this paper, we will investigate those factors which have the largest effect on heap temperature, and discuss which parameters are best manipulated to control heap temperature. To the authors knowledge, although several investigators have developed heat balances around dump leaching operations, usually as part of an overall dump leaching model w35x, none has looked specifically at copper sulphide heap leaching operations, and none has accounted explicitly for either the effects of the environment on the heap surface boundary condition, or the all-important effects of forced aeration and in situ evaporation on the thermal profile within heaps.

where CuS denotes the blaubleibender, or blue remaining phase. It bears noting that in bioleaching operations, the product elemental sulphur from Reaction B. is typically further oxidized to sulphate in the presence of sulphur-oxidizing bacteria.. The intrinsic rate of Reaction A. is very high; so high, in fact, that the reaction rate is typically limited by diffusion of ferric ions to the mineral surface w1x. Hence, approximately one half of the copper from chalcocite may be recovered very quickly from the heap. However, Reaction B. is very slow, and therefore largely determines the necessary heap leaching times. These leaching times typically exceed 1 year, and can be as long as 18 months in some cases. However, the Arrhenius activation energy of Reaction B. has been reported to be on the order of 98 kJrmol w2x. Hence, at least within the temperature range of viability for most iron- and sulphur-oxidizing bacteria, every 108C increase in temperature represents an almost threefold increase in the intrinsic rate of Reaction B.. Depending on the heat-generating potential of the ore, which is largely a function of pyrite content, and the ambient environmental conditions, which govern the net rate of heat gain at the heap surface, two similar heaps operating in identical fashion at different locations may behave very differently. For in-

2. The general enthalpy balance for sulphide heap leaching A general enthalpy balance is derived based on the following assumptions: 1. The heap is comprised of three phases: a continuous stagnant phase consisting of all solids and stagnant solution; a liquid phase flowing downward; and a gaseous phase flowing upward. 2. All three phases are in thermal equilibrium at any depth within the heap. 3. The gaseous phase is saturated in water vapour at all points within the heap. 4. All physical and thermal properties of the heap remain constant and uniform throughout the leaching cycle. The general enthalpy balance within a heap is written as:

Rate of heat accumulation4 s Net rate of heat input by conduction4 q Net rate of heat input by advection4 q Net rate of heat production4 .

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


In symbols, across a shell of thickness D x and cross-section A, taking the net flow of liquid water downward and of air and water vapour upward, and assuming perfect thermal equilibrium between all phases at any depth x, the enthalpy balance becomes: AD x Er h Et s A q < x y q < xqD x . q m l h l < x y m l h l < xqD x . q m a h a < xq D x y m a h a < x . q m v h v < xq D x y m v h v < x . q AD xS,

tion, or the product of the molecular weight and partial pressure ratios for water and air, respectively:

csc T . s

0.6242 pv T . p y pv T .


where pv T . is the vapor pressure, then the steadystate water balance is written as: Em l Ex s Em v Ex Ec s ma Ex ,


which, upon integration, gives the mass flow rate of liquid water:

where q represents heat flux by conduction, the mh terms represent heat flow by advection of liquid, dry air, and vapour, respectively, and S represents the rate of heat generation per unit heap volume owing to chemical reaction. Dividing Eq. 1. by AD x, taking the limit as D x approaches zero, and recognizing the definition of the first derivative give the differential enthalpy balance: Er h sy Et Ex Eq y A Ex 1 E

m l < x s m l < xs0 q m a c T < x . y c T < xs0 . . . Applying these results to Eq. 4. gives: Er h Et sk E2 T Ex2 m l < xs 0 A = Eh l Ex q q ma A m a Eh a A Ex Ec q h v y hl . Ex q S.


c T . y c T < xs 0 . .
qc T . Eh v Ex

m l h l y ma ha y m v h v . q S.


According to Fouriers law of conduction: ET q s yk Ex .

Defining the enthalpies in terms of specific heat: d h sCpdT , d h l s Cpl dT , d h a s Cpa dT ,


d h v s Cpv dT , the latent heat of vaporization:

Applying Fouriers law to Eq. 2., assuming the mass flow rate of dry air m a constant and carrying out the differentiation of each of the advection terms give: Er h Et sk E T Ex2 y A Eh v Ex

l s h v y hl ,
and the applied mass fluxes of water also accounting for the decrease in the applied rate owing to evaporation losses at the heap surface. and air: Gl s ml A s m l N xs0 A q k g ra c T N xs0 .


Eh l Ex

q hl

Em l Ex

y ma

Eh a Ex

ym v


Em v Ex

q S.


yv` c T` . . , Ga s ma A ,

Assuming no net accumulation of water within the heap, and defining the saturation humidity c as the mass ratio of water vapour to dry air at satura-


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

then the final expression of the enthalpy balance is written as: ET

where qconvection s h T` y T N xs0 . , qevaporation s yk g ra l c T N xs0 . y v` c T` . . ,

r Cp

Et E2 T Ex2 y G l y k g ra c T N xs0 .


4 qradiation s a s G z . y e F1 2 s T 4 N xs0 y Tsky . .

yv` c T` . . q Ga c T . y c T N xs0 . . Cpl yGa Cpa q Cpv c T . q lc X T . ET

4 E x q S,

The convective and evaporative heat fluxes are defined in the standard way according to ANewtons law of cooling.B Once the heat transfer coefficient h is known as a function of hydrodynamics at the heap surface, i.e., windspeed, etc.., the mass transfer coefficient k g may be determined by the Chilton Colburn analogy: Sh s Nu [

where c X T . is the first derivative of the saturation humidity with respect to temperature. Eq. 9. has the following boundary and initial conditions: ET BC1: yk Ex ET BC2: yk s Ga Ex
xs X

Pr s



1 s Le1r3 s


r Cp Dv


s q q G l Cpl Tl y T N xs0 . ,
xs 0

k g ra Cpa h

r Cp Dv

y Le 2r3 ,

Cpa q Cpv va c Ta . . T N xsX y Ta .

ql c T N xs X . y va c Ta . . , IC: T N x ,ts0 s T0 , where v` and va are the relative humidities of the ambient atmosphere and the feed air, respectively. The boundary conditions BC1 and BC2 represent enthalpy balances across the top and bottom heap surfaces, respectively. The left-hand terms represent heat conduction at the boundaries. The first term on the right-hand side of BC1 represents the net enthalpy gain to the upper heap surface owing to interaction with the environment, while the second term represents the net enthalpy gain owing to the application of process water. The right-hand terms of BC2 represent the net enthalpy loss owing to the application of process air to the lower heap surface, and the in situ saturation of that air with water vapour. The environmental heat flux components of BC1 are: q s qconvection q qevaporation q qradiation ,

where Le is the Lewis number. The radiative heat flux includes a term for the absorption of solar radiation, and for grey body radiative exchange with the sky, which is only important at night as a net loss of heat from the heap. The intensity of solar radiation is a function of the zenith angle of the sun: G z . s where cos z . s sin l . sin d . q cos l . cos d . cos a . , and where G 0 is the solar irradiation constant which may be taken as 1390 Wrm2 , ta is the atmospheric attenuation factor, and l, d, and a are the latitude, declination, and local hour angle, respectively. Both the ambient temperature T` and the effective blackbody sky temperature Tsky are taken as functions of zenith angle, and both remain constant at their minimum specified values after the sun goes down. For ambient temperature:
T` s

sec G 0 ta z . cos z .

cos z . ) 0 cos z . - 0


min q `

T`max yT`min .

cos z . cos z . N as 0

cos z . ) 0 cos z . - 0,

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


and for effective blackbody sky temperature:

Tsky s

min max min Tsky q Tsky yTsky

cos z . cos z . N as 0

1r 4

cos z . ) 0 cos z . - 0.

min Tsky

Recasting the coefficients of the differential enthalpy balance in the form of timescales facilitates solution and provides a means for comparing the relative importance of model parameters. Defining the following variables, functions, and parameters:


x X


r Cp

q s ,

r CpX
Cpv Cpa ,


Ga Gl


k g ra Gl

l ks
Cpa ,


and the following timescales of conduction, liquid phase advection, and gas phase advection, respectively:

tc s

r CpX 2


r CpX
G l Cpl

ta s

r CpX
Ga Cpa

The physical significance of the two functions f lT . and f v T . is as follows: f l represents both the loss of applied water owing to evaporation at the heap surface and the degree of Aliquid film thickeningB owing to the flow of water vapour in the opposite direction within the heap, while f v represents the degree of enhancement of the net flow of enthalpy with the gas phase due to the presence of water vapour. The enthalpy balance is a second-order, non-linear partial differential equation with mixed non-linear boundary conditions. This equation is solved numerically using a fully implicit finite difference formulation, including central differences for the conductive and advective terms and a forward difference for the accumulation term. As long as the value taken for thermal conductivity is sufficiently high i.e., as long as the Peclet number is sufficiently low, bearing in mind the possibility of wide variation in f v T . over time., no problems of instability are encountered, and numerical solution may be considered strictly from the Eulerian viewpoint.

then the general enthalpy balance is written as: ET s Et where f l T . s 1 y f c T N zs0 . y v` c T` . q h c T . y c T N zs0 . , and f v T . s 1 q bc T . q kc X T . , with the boundary and initial conditions: BC1: y 1 ET 1 1 E2 T

tc Ez 2

fl T .

fv T .


3. Results and discussion



q S,

10 .
3.1. Parameter selection For the purposes of providing a consistent basis for comparing the importance of various factors on heat conservation, a set of standard conditions has been employed as a base case. These should conform roughly to conditions during the vernal equinox in the high Chilean desert, and are presented in Table 1. In all of the simulations shown below, the rate of heat generation S has been assumed uniform and constant, and is therefore represented as the initial rate S0 . While perhaps not very realistic, as the rate of heat generation will necessarily fall with the rate of oxidation as the sulphide minerals in the heap are depleted, this assumption should suffice for the purpose of comparing the effects of various factors on heat conservation. Furthermore, as will be shown, a steady state is typically achieved within the first 2 months, over which time one would not typically expect the rate of heat generation within most heaps to fall to a significant degree. In any case, analysis of change in the rate of heat generation would require

tc Ez
1 ET

s q q


Tl y T N zs0 ,

BC2: y 1 s

tc Ez



1 q bva c Ta .

T N zs1 y Ta

qk c T N zs1 . y va c Ta . IC: T N z ,ts0 s T0 .


32 Table 1 Parameters for the base case Parameter Average heap density Average heap heat capacity Average heap thermal conductivity Heap height Initial heap temperature Rate of heat generation Solution irrigation rate Solution heat capacity Solution temperature Aeration rate dry basis. Dry air heat capacity Air temperature Air relative humidity Latent heat of vaporization Water vapour heat capacity Atmospheric pressure Minimum ambient temperature Maximum ambient temperature Ambient atmospheric relative humidity Surface heat transfer coefficient Airvapour Lewis number Heap surface solar absorptivity Heap surface grey body emissivity Heap-to-sky view factor Atmospheric attenuation factor Latitude Solar declination Minimum night. sky temperature Maximum noon. sky temperature Value

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

r s1700 kgrm3 Cp s1000 Jrkg K k s1 Wrm K X s6 m T0 s 293 K 208C. S0 s 20 Wrm3 G l s 5 kgrm2 h Cpl s 4184 Jrkg K T l s 283 K 108C. Ga s variable Cpa s1000 Jrkg K Ta s 283 K 108C. va s 30% l s 2360 kJrkg Cpv s1840 Jrkg K ps 0.6 atm T`min s 273 K 08C. T`max s 293 K 208C. v` s 30%
hs 20 Wrm2 K Les1.25 as s 0.7 e s 0.9 F1 2 s 0.75 ta s 0.9 l sy238 ds 08 equinox. min Tsky s 213 K y608C. max Tsky s 313 K 408C.

shield to the heap surface. In any case, h is difficult to predict in the absence of hard data. The selected value of 20 Wrm2 K, while somewhat lower than would be expected in the windy conditions prevalent in the high desert, has been chosen to reflect the fact that only a small proportion of the heap surface is wetted. And, as will be shown, even this small value of h results in a dramatic drop in temperature near the heap surface. 3.2. Modeling the effect of changing flow rates The results of changing the rates of solution irrigation, forced aeration, and heat generation are shown in Fig. 1. The standard conditions have been assumed in all cases. The ordinate of each plot in Fig. 1 represents the integrated average internal heap temperature: Tave s

H T x . d x sH0 T z . d z X 0

knowledge concerning the rates of sulphide oxidation within the heap as a function of temperature, which is beyond the scope of this paper. Another source of potential uncertainty is the surface heat transfer coefficient, h. Owing to the low atmospheric pressure and dry conditions in the high desert, even small changes in h can have a dramatic effect on the rate of evaporation, and hence, on the rate of heat loss from the heap surface. Anticipating this, most heap operators can and do make provisions for minimizing evaporation. These include: using drip emitters instead of sprayers or wobblers. for heap irrigation, which only wet the heap surface directly below the drip, and thereby minimize the available wetted surface for evaporation; burying half of the drip lines below the heap surface; or, in extreme cases, even applying some sort of physical

It will be noted that a value of S0 s 20 Wrm3 corresponds roughly to a heap which contains 2% sulphide sulphur, and leaches to 80% oxidation over a period of 1 year. It should also be noted that even the lowest aeration rate of Ga s 1.67 kgrm2 h or approximately 0.14 N m3 dry airrt h. taken in Fig. 1 is somewhat higher than standard industrial practice, and would result in only about 20% oxygen utilization in the present scenario, assuming that all of the sulphide sulphur is oxidized completely to sulphate.. Comparing the left and right plots shows that increasing the solution irrigation rate is generally detrimental to heat conservation. This is simply because more solution carries more heat away from the heap. In fact, if one compares the top left and bottom right plots, one sees that even when the rate of heat generation is twice as high, the heap will be no warmer if the solution irrigation rate is also twice as high at the same GarG l ratio. On the other hand, increasing the aeration rate relative to the solution irrigation rate. has a dramatic and beneficial effect on heat conservation, although, as shown in the bottom left plot, the ultimate average temperature goes through a maximum with increasing aeration rate note that the curve with open squares GarG l s

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


Fig. 1. The effects of solution irrigation rate, aeration rate, and heat generation rate on the integrated average heap temperature vs. time.

2r3. is higher than the curve with open triangles GarG l s 1... The effect of increasing the aeration rate is illustrated by comparing the time histories of the internal heap temperature profile at two different aeration rates, as shown in Fig. 2. At the lower rate of GarG l s 1r6 or 0.83 kgrm2 h, which corresponds to roughly 0.07 N m3 dry airrt h., the heap is warmer towards the bottom as the initially cold solution carries the heat of reaction downward. The reason why the heap stays so cold near the top is because the cold temperatures of the night are carried downward by the solution, abetted by large evaporative heat losses at the surface during daylight hours, to create a kind of Astanding waveB which

culminates in a cyclic steady-state temperature minimum located about 30 cm from the heap surface. Even at midday the hypothetical time of the plots in Fig. 2; hence, the much higher temperatures at x s 0., when the heap surface reaches its maximum temperature, the region just below the surface remains cold. However, when the aeration rate is increased, by a factor of 4 in this case, one sees an entirely different sort of behaviour. Now, the direction of the temperature profile is reversed as the gas phase carries the heat of reaction upward. With the solution carrying heat downward and the air carrying heat upward, the net result is the accumulation of heat in the centre. However, as the heap gradually heats up,


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

Fig. 2. Time histories for temperature profiles carried out to 75 days at two different aeration rates each curve represents 1 day of leaching..

the gas phase carries more and more heat in the form of latent heat of vaporization. As a result, the peak temperature shifts towards the top of the heap. As steady state is approached, even the temperature trough near the heap surface is virtually eliminated. This behaviour is best understood by making reference to the heat balance, Eq. 10.: ET s Et 1 E2 T fl T . fv T . ET Ez q S.

At the standard conditions, and at the flow and heat generation rates specified in Fig. 2, the values of the timescales in Eq. 10. are as follows: Conduction timescale Liquid phase advection timescale Gas phase advection timescale

tc s 17,000 h t l s 488 h ta s 12,239 h at GarG l s 1r6 ta s 3060 h at GarG l s 2r3

tc Ez 2



10 .

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


Given the very large timescale for conduction, it is safe to say that the major mode of heat transfer is by advection. However, the direction in which the heat will be carried is determined largely by the relative values of the two terms in the square brackets the Acombined advection coefficient.B By simply comparing the values of the two advection timescales, one would conclude that liquid phase advection would always dominate, regardless of the aeration rate. However, one must also account for the presence of water vapour in the gas phase, and the large enthalpy associated with its formation. In other words, one must account for the advection functions, f lT . and f v T .. The value of the liquid phase advection function f lT . oscillates between roughly 1.0 during the night when evaporation from the heap surface is minimal. and roughly 0.7 at midday, and is a very weak function of temperature. However, the vapour advection function f v T . is a strong function of temperature primarily because of the kc X T . term.. For example, at a total pressure of p s 0.6 atm from the standard conditions.: T 8C. f v T . 10 3.08 20 4.82 30 7.87 40 13.42 50 24.41

Hence, as heat accumulates in the heap, f v T . increases, and the combined advection coefficient

tends towards more positive values. If the combined advection coefficient can become sufficiently positive over a wide-enough region within the heap before the cold front from the heap surface has reached the bottom, then heat will begin to accumulate faster than it is removed, the temperature will continue to increase, and the combined advection coefficient will continue to grow. This concept is illustrated in Fig. 3, where negative ordinate values indicate downward liquid phase. advection dominant, and positive values indicate upward gas phase. advection dominant. As the coefficient becomes more and more positive, upward advection becomes stronger, and the temperature peak begins to shift towards the top of the heap, as shown in Fig. 2. In this sense, a sulphide heap should behave AautocatalyticallyB with temperature at a sufficiently high aeration rate. Only here, the autocatalytic AreactionB is just the evaporation of water. Any increase in the rate of sulphide oxidation with increasing temperature would only enhance the effect. It would thus seem that increasing the aeration rate should be just as effective as adding a fuel source such as sulphide sulphur to increase the heat generation rate at low aeration rates. However, success of the technique hinges completely on blowing air above a certain critical rate. At the conditions of Fig. 2, the critical aeration rate lies somewhere be-

Fig. 3. Time histories of the combined advection coefficient profile at two different aeration rates.


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

Fig. 4. Temperature profiles after 75 days of leaching at six different aeration rates.

tween GarG l s 1r3 and GarG l s 1r2, as shown in Figs. 4 and 5. In fact, the critical rate in this case is very near GarG l s 0.35.. As shown in Fig. 5, operating too close to the critical rate results in a slow temperature response, while operating too far above the critical rate results in a lower steady state temperature, as warm humid

air is simply blown out of the top of the heap. The ideal aeration rate is therefore a compromise between response time and ultimate temperature. Hence, for the purposes of heap start-up, it may be beneficial to err on the side of overblowing at first, but to decrease the aeration rate as the heap temperature increases. Finally, as shown in Fig. 6, starting

Fig. 5. Integrated average temperatures vs. time at six different aeration rates.

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


Fig. 6. The effect of initial heap temperature.

the heap at a higher or lower initial temperature changes the time required to reach steady state, but has no effect on the ultimate average temperature reached. 3.3. Modeling the effect of an eaporation shield Since the primary mode of heat loss from a heap in the high desert would be evaporation from the heap surface, it follows that the application of an evaporation shield would have a beneficial effect on heat conservation. However, the effect that such a shield would have on surface heat loss can only be guessed at in the absence of hard data. Any evaporation shield would probably consist of some sort of plastic covering, most likely perforated to facilitate air flow. Such a cover would have three major effects: 1. it would decrease but probably not eliminate. the effective heat transfer coefficient; 2. it would decrease the rate of radiative heat transfer both to and from the heap surface; and 3. it would trap humid air at the heap surface. For the purposes of analysis, the following parameter changes have been assumed: Surface heat transfer coefficient, h 20

Heap surface solar absorptivity, as Heap surface grey body emissivity, e Heap-to-sky view factor, F1 2 Ambient atmospheric relative humidity, v`

0.5 0.9 0.3 0.75 1.0 30 100%


5 Wrm

Typical values of the surface heat fluxes over a single day of leaching are shown in Fig. 7. The net daily heat savings by virtue of applying the evaporation shield is approximately 1.33 kW hrm2 . Compare this with the total daily heat of reaction of approximately 2.88 kW hrm2 at S0 s 20 Wrm3 , and the heat savings are substantial. The effects of the rates of forced aeration and heat generation in the presence and absence of an evaporation shield are shown in Fig. 8. At GarG l s 1r6, the evaporation shield increases the temperature everywhere in the heap by a certain amount, but does not change the basic shape of the temperature profile, regardless of the heat generation rate. At GarG l s 1r3, the behaviour is different depending on the value of the heat generation rate. At S0 s 10 Wrm3 , the increased aeration rate has very little effect. However, at S0 s 20 Wrm3 , the evaporation shield


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

Fig. 7. Surface heat fluxes in the absence and presence of an evaporation shield at the standard conditions.

raises the heap temperature enough to push the heap into the evaporative autocatalytic mode. If one compares this temperature profile with the profile at the slightly higher aeration rate of GarG l s 1r2 shown in Fig. 4, one sees that the peak temperature in the presence of the evaporation shield is slightly higher, but that the profile is less uniform. At GarG l s 2r3, somewhat similar behaviour is seen at the lower heat generation rate of S0 s 10 Wrm3. In this case, the profile was just barely autocatalytic to start with, and the shield has simply pushed the heap over the critical point. At S0 s 20 Wrm3 , however, the shield

has a negligible effect in addition to the high aeration rate. From the above, we may conclude the following concerning evaporation shields assuming that their present mathematical interpretation is, at all, accurate.:

1. In the high desert, an evaporation shield will raise the internal temperature of the heap by a uniform increment of a few degrees Celsius perhaps by as many as 10.

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


Fig. 8. The 75-day temperature profiles and integrated average temperature vs. time both with dashed curves. and without solid curves. an evaporation shield, at two different heat generation rates.

2. In the absence of a significant aeration rate, that is all the shield will do. 3. In the presence of an inadequate aeration rate, the shield may raise the temperature of the heap enough to initiate evaporative autocatalysis. 4. In the presence of an adequate aeration rate, the shield has a negligible additional effect. Hence, it seems fairly safe to say that providing an adequate aeration rate to the heap should be a more effective means of heat conservation than applying an evaporation shield. 3.4. Modeling the effects of solution and air heating The effects of raising the temperature of the applied solution, both in the presence and absence of

an evaporation shield as defined above, are shown in Fig. 9. In either case, at a low aeration rate, raising the solution temperature T l from 108C to 308C results in a net heap temperature increase of 38C or 48C. Again, the net beneficial effect is well below that which would be achieved simply by increasing the aeration rate to the heap by a factor of 4. Moderate increases in air temperature have a negligible effect on heat conservation. However, feeding warm, fully humidified air to the heap results in significant thermal gains, as shown in Fig. 10. However, again, success of the technique hinges on providing an adequate aeration rate. At GarG l s 1r6, the humid air has a negligible effect on the average temperature, while at GarG l s 2r3, the effect is fairly dramatic, although in the latter case, temperatures are already high due to evaporative autocatalysis.


D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741

Fig. 9. The effect of increasing the solution feed temperature in the presence and absence of an evaporation shield.

In order to produce fully humidified air at a given temperature, one must heat air to the temperature which corresponds to the Aadiabatic saturation lineB on the psychrometric chart, and then pass the heated air through a packed bed in countercurrent flow with

water which is recycled to the bed. In our case, having assumed perfect thermal equilibrium at any depth within the heap, identical results would be achieved simply by blowing air heated to the adiabatic saturation temperature directly into the heap.

Fig. 10. The effect of blowing fully humidified air into the heap at different temperatures and aeration rates.

D.G. Dixonr Hydrometallurgy 58 (2000) 2741


To obtain fully humidified air at 308C, this temperature would have to be 1408C. To obtain fully humidified air at 408C, this temperature would have to be 2428C. The cost to achieve such high temperatures would be prohibitive.

4. Conclusions The major modes of heat loss from a sulphide heap operating in the high desert are by evaporation from the heap surface and by sensible heat loss with the effluent solution. Several options have been considered for conserving this lost heat, and thereby increasing the internal temperature of the heap, including: Decreasing the solution irrigation rate; Increasing the aeration rate; Applying an evaporation shield to the heap surface; Heating the solution; and Heating the air, with and without humidification.

From the foregoing analysis, it may be safely concluded that the most effective means of achieving a high degree of heat conservation within a sulphide heap in the high desert is to blow air into the heap above a certain critical rate while maintaining a low rate of solution irrigation. Any other means of conserving heat is only effective when these two have been achieved, and in most cases, the additional effect is minimal and probably would not justify the expense. References
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