Continuous vat leaching

Gold/silver leaching

INNOVAT Limited 760 Brant Street, Suite 405c Burlington, Ontario Canada L7R 4B8 Phone: 905-333-7133 Email Website

Gold/Silver 1/8

LEACHING OF PRECIOUS METALS ORES OVERVIEW CONTINUOUS VAT LEACHING The use of continuous vat leaching is a preferred method of leaching gold and silver ores over both agitated tank leaching and heap leaching for both economic and environmental reasons. Some are many times larger. a lengthy process of doubtful long-term effectiveness. Following leaching. and the environmental risks involved can be serious. Gold/Silver 2/8 . occupying literally hectares of land. In cold climates the heaps must be protected against freezing. The following photograph shows a small heap leach operation. In high rainfall areas the heaps must be covered. Heap leaching occupies huge land areas that must be reasonably flat. An exception is when high economical recoveries can be earned in run-of-mine heap leaching. In dry climates there are high evaporation losses. This is a rare situation. the heaps must be rinsed and detoxified.

INNOVAT technology discharges dewatered tailings that have been fully detoxified. Merrill-Crowe is the preferred flow sheet for high silver/gold ratios with CIL/CIP normally used for gold ores. Cyanide destruction prior to tailings disposal has become mandatory in many parts of the world. Detoxification of slurries discharged to tailings ponds is only done in some regions of the world. This has translated into extreme environmental pressure being put on the industry by the public and by the press. using the INCO SO2/Air method. there has been an average of one major tailings dam failure each year. or Merrill-Crowe methods is commonly employed for higher grade ores. carbon-in-pulp.A Small Heap Leach Operation Agitated tank leaching. using carbon-in-leach. Each of these methods normally employs tailings ponds. During the past thirty years. the use of cyanide has been banned altogether. Gold/Silver 3/8 . while in other areas. which makes financing of gold mines difficult. all as an integral part of the system. with about one third of them involving cyanide.

with materials handling being of high cost. would be prohibitive. however. It is a leach/drain/wash/drain cycle that conceivably could be used with a detoxification cycle in gold leaching and would allow for stackable tailings. with ore loaded into the vats for batch leaching. Lou Cope described the first vat leaching at Homestake in 1901. which later improved the process in 1906 by adding a desliming circuit. when cyanide leaching began in earnest with the Merrill-Crowe Process. where such plants as Mantos Blancos in Chile continue to operate. because it requires the use of thickeners and filters. but had become viable in 1896.From Grinding Plant T hickener Leach Tanks Carbon Colum ns Carbon-inPulp Tanks Safety Screen Return Solution T ailings Pond Figure 1 TRADITIONAL GOLD LEACH PLANT There is a growing trend towards dewatering tailings and stacking them in the environment. Traditional vat leaching is a batch process. In an article in the Engineering and Mining Journal in December 1999. especially in the copper industry. The INNOVAT system has dewatering as an integral part of its discharge. The method used is the same as was first introduced in 1927 on nitrates. Gold/Silver 4/8 . This is an expensive proposition with conventional flow sheets. Vat leaching has been around since Roman times. then discharged by gantry-mounted clamshells. however. Some vat leaching continues to this day. The operating costs in most cases.

DESCRIPT IO N DATE BY INNOVAT Limited Carbon Reactivation O akville.Traditional Vat Leaching of Copper Mantos Blancos. Pum ps REV. 1995 To Gravity Plant Paste Thickener Carbon Colum ns M ake-up W ater Na 2 S 2 O 5 Cu 2 SO 4 Air NaOCl Head Tank From Gravity Plant To Tailings Disposal CaO NaCN Leach Section W ash Section Detox Section Circulating Pum ps NaOH Carbon Stripping Colum ns Holding Tank Electrowinning Cell Induction Furnace Detox. Chile. Canada To Carbon Colum ns Gioas Project EcoVat Continuous Vat Leaching Flow Sheet ® SIZE FSCM NO DW G NO INNOVAT Limited Figure 2 SHEET REV A 1 OF 1 SCALE Figure 2 Continuous Vat Leaching Flow Sheet with Carbon Columns Gold/Silver 5/8 .

Continuous Vat Leaching. Ore in the vat is naturally classified and washed of slimes. DESCRIPT ION DATE BY INNOVAT Limited Oakville. Other discharge methods patented by INNOVAT can filter the discharge for drier disposal. three distinct sections can be seen: leaching. and detoxification. To Gravity Plant Paste Thickener Barren Solution Tank M ake-up W ater Na 2 S 2 O 5 Cu 2 SO 4 NaOCl Leaf Clarifier Head Tank Air From Gravity Plant To Tailings Disposal CaO NaCN Vacuum Pum p Zn Leach Section W ash Section Detox Section Plate and Fram e Filters Crowe Tower Recirculating Pum ps Induction Furnace Detox. which are collected separately in a paste thickener. The ore behaves like quicksand and flows to level the bed as ore is put in and taken out. washing. Canada 1000 tpd Leaching Plant Flow Diagram EcoVat W ith Merrille-Crowe ® SIZE FSCM NO DW G NO REV INNOVAT Limited SCALE SHEET 1 OF 1 Figure 3 Typical Continuous Vat Leach with Merrill-Crowe Gold/Silver 6/8 . and is discharged as a stackable product. is transported through the vat by intermittent fluidization. Coarser ore left in the vat travels through in a near sanded out condition so that when it is lifted out and decanted by the discharge mechanism it is well drained to paste consistency. particularly if pozzolanic mixes are planned. Ore is intermittently fluidized by high energy up bursts of solution that provide intimate mixing and the fluidity to transport the ore through the vat. Referring to Figure 2. The advantage of this scenario is flexibility in final disposal. Ground ore tailings discharged from the vats are typically below 20% water by weight for normally grind sizes (200 mesh) with slimes discharged separately at 50% water by weight or less. dramatically reduces materials handling costs. all operating as a continuous process in a single vat. Pum ps REV. which is a typical flow sheet using carbon columns for gold extraction. introduced by INNOVAT in 1991. Ore simply is introduced into the feed end of the vat.

000 200. result from the use of hydraulic fluidization versus the powerful agitators required in conventional leaching plants. The coarser the grind. the trucks never need run empty. Gold/Silver 7/8 .65 million tons per year (5000 t/d).000 Included 400.000 1.000 2.Economics of Continuous Vat Leaching™ Comparison with Flotation and Agitated Tank Leaching A recent capital cost estimate prepared for Greater Lenora Resources on their 4000 t/d Goldfields project.000 400. Savings in disposal transportation can also be earned by using the mine trucks to back-haul the detoxified waste to the dump. where heap leaching at a crush size of –3/8” is compared with vat leaching at –1/4”.546.002.000 1.000 3. but the improved profitability.000 3. Power savings. the resulting comparison was made.35 to $0. One has to realize that the same trucks that deliver the ore to the crushing plant can take the ore to the dump.200.000. based on an existing heap leach. assumes a heap leach cycle of 60 days versus a vat leach cycle of 36 hours.000 900.546. Comparison with Heap Leaching It is not just the environmental needs that will drive the use of Continuous Vat Leaching.000 4.15 to $0.664. The original flow sheet had been conceived as a gravity/flotation plant at an estimated cost of $30 million.60 per ton. Item Crushing Plant Gravity Plant Leach Plant Carbon Strip Plant Detoxification Plant Electrical and Controls Tailings Disposal Subtotal Contingency 15% EPCM 15% Contractor Indirects Total Capital Cost Agitated Leaching Continuous Vat Case US $ Leaching Case US $ 5.000 703.000 17.780. compared the two cases.070. most of which power is consumed simply to keep the agitated tanks from sanding out.000 2.758.346.000.000 5.986.30 per ton.000 13. in the range of $0.000 2.000 3.200. ranging from $0.000 762.000 2.000 A great deal of the capital savings is in the detoxification plant and tailings disposal.000 18.000 2. Ore is treated in two vats.002. This data.053.000 23. A significant advantage in operating cost savings. the economic benefits are significant. the more dramatic this becomes. where a 2 gpt gold ore is processed at a rate of 1.664. Following laboratory work on leaching and based on autogenous crushing to a P80 of 10-mesh.000. can be realized by using vat leaching. depending on power rates. As shown in the following table.

Operation year round in freezing conditions Smaller footprint than heap leaching and agitated tank leaching Ideal for underground operations Go Modern Go INNOVAT!!! Gold/Silver 8/8 .000 +$2.000 -$1. continuous vat leaching requires 7. a value estimated at over $1.000 +$0. Consider the cost of money for the time invested. $1.800.755.500 tons of ore.Item Recovery Capital Cost Operating Cost Differential Inventory Cost Heap Leach 70% $7. ore sits there until it has been leached and recovered from solution.7 million in the previous example. No agglomeration system. In addition.38/ton Continuous Vat Leach 90% $6.000 tons of ore. Summary of Continuous Vat Leaching™ Benefits You win hands down with better economics and other benefits.000 $45. consider the business cash flow. losing potential value for the metal as the market rises and falls during recovery. no ponds. The important issue is the cash flow implications for the business. examples being Greenstone’s Minas Santa Rosa and Viceroy’s Brewery Creek. tailings completely detoxified to international standards Minimum water losses through evaporation as compared with heaps and tailings ponds.600.000 -$1.300.000 What is seldom considered in heap leaching are the tons of ore and tons of solution in inventory. labor and water losses Work in Process inventory: Heap Leach requires 300. Some heap leaches take up to 350 days for full recovery. there is more cash flow at risk.78/ton Comment Continuous Vat Leaching has better process control. which include but are not limited to: • • • • • • • Up to 6 mm as well as ground ores (typically P80 75 microns) can be handled Can be applied to economically benefit existing heap leach operations No tailings ponds.60/ton Benefits +20% -$700. Minimum materials handling.

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