Characterization and Electrorefining of a Copper Anode with High Lead, Arsenic and Bismuth

Additonal authors: Moats, M. S.. 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

Campbell, C. M.

Samples of a high impurity (90.05 wt. % Cu, 4076 ppm Pb, 1939 ppm As and 635 ppm Bi) commercial copper anode were characterized and then electrorefined in a laboratory scale cell. Anode inclusions were examined using backscatter mode scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy. Hundreds of inclusions were measured for size, morphology and composition. Commonly found inclusions were copper oxide (Cu2O), complex oxides (Cu-Pb-Bi-As-O) and copper selenides/tellurides. The weight percent of lead and arsenic increased with increasing inclusion size up to 4- 5 microns. During electrorefining, starter sheet ductility was negatively impacted by thiourea addition. The importance of arsenic (V) concentration on the electrolyte concentration of bismuth was observed. INTRODUCTION Copper electrorefining is a commercial process used to produce the majority of the world’s refined copper. During this process, impure copper anodes are dissolved electrolytically, and high purity copper is deposited on cathodes. As the anodes dissolve, the impurities either accumulate in the electrolyte or report to solids that form on anodes surfaces or at the bottom of the refining cell. These solids are called slimes. Slimes contain precious metals and are collected for further processing. Slimes are also an important outlet for problem impurities such as lead, antimony and bismuth. The electrorefining process is operated in such a way to encourage the deportment of these elements to the slimes. Impurities in copper anodes have been studied extensively by Chen and Dutrizac (1990, 1993 and 2005). The most common impurities found in modern copper anodes include: Ag, As, Au, Bi, Fe, Ni, O, Pb, Sb, Se, Sn and Te. Impure copper anodes are produced by pyrometallurgical methods and have purities ranging from 97.7–99.7% Cu (Moats et al., 2019). The composition ranges of commercial copper anodes from the 2019 worldwide tankhouse survey are given in Table 1. The concentrations of anode impurities vary widely dependent on the source material and prior processing steps. Based on the work of Chen and Dutrizac, both gold and silver are predominantly found in solid solution within the copper grains while a minor amount of Ag can be found in Cu2(Se/Te) inclusions. Nickel is entirely soluble within the copper grains up to anode compositions of 2500–3000 ppm Ni; above which NiO and kupferglimmer phases are formed (Chen & Dutrizac, 1990). As, Bi, Pb and Sb are found in solid solution within copper and within oxide inclusions typically found along grain boundaries. Oxides are formed due to the presence of 0.13-0.18 wt. % O (Chen & Dutrizac, 1990). This is because during solidification of the cast anodes, impurities are enriched in the liquid phase as the copper grains nucleate and grow. The inclusions form from the last liquid to freeze, which is typically along grain boundaries (Wenzl & Filzwieser, 2007; Wenzl, Filzwieser, Mori & Pesl, 2008).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019