A Comparison of Roasting Technologies for Arsenic Removal from Copper Concentrates

Additonal authors: Lee, C.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Adham, K.

Copper concentrates contain an increasing amount of arsenic, as the older sources of cleaner ores are depleted. At the same time, the market-determined price penalties on arsenic rich concentrates are rising due to limited arsenic treatment capacity at smelters and increasingly stringent environmental emissions limits, necessitating arsenic removal from the copper concentrates. Heating the concentrate to about 700°C can remove significant amounts of arsenic (as elemental and/or sulfide); however, it is important to achieve that removal economically and with due consideration to post-roasting arsenic (toxic waste) treatment. A comparison is made among different roasting options (kilns, multi-hearths and fluid beds) to qualify their potential application to arsenic roasting of copper concentrates. Both direct and indirect methods of heating as well as inert, air and oxygen atmosphere options are considered. Technology comparisons are made with respect to the roaster’s operation, its off-gas treatment and arsenic stabilization. INTRODUCTION In the last twenty years, the arsenic content in globally produced copper concentrates have risen steadily due to the depletion of cleaner ores and the increase in complex concentrate production. Smelter contracts typically limit arsenic to less than 0.5wt%, with a penalty paid per unit of additional arsenic and other contaminants such as antimony. While penalties can vary, they can be on the order of $70/dry metric tonne of concentrate per 1% of arsenic. Strategies used by miners to avoid the price penalties have been to blend clean and complex concentrates, and to remove arsenic from complex concentrates to achieve smelter limits. Arsenic can be removed from copper concentrates by the heat-induced decomposition of the predominant enargite mineral (Cu3AsS4) at ~700°C. Roasting at such elevated temperature is a commercially proven option, but still suffers from process, cost and environmental challenges. After roasting, the released arsenic sulfide fumes can be separated from most of the entrained concentrate dust in cyclones. Then, the As2S3 laden off-gas can be oxidized to generate a still volatile oxide (As2O3), which can be further separated from the residual concentrate dust in a hot electrostatic separator. Next, the off-gas can be cooled with air or water, to either deposit the arsenic oxide in a dry or dissolved state. Dissolved arsenic acid can be oxidized to As(V) and reacted with iron to yield a stabilized ferrihydrite precipitate or scorodite that can be safely disposed. In the case of dry arsenic trioxide, it can be mixed with reactants (e.g. iron) and fluxes before thermal stabilization in a glass matrix, thus eliminating the need for costly oxidation.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019