Enhancing Cobalt Recovery from Copper/Nickel Matte Producing Smelters

Additonal authors: Lakshmanan, V. I.. 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

Sridhar, R.

Process Research ORTECH Inc. (PRO), with its in-depth knowledge on cobalt behaviour in nickel matte smelters and its novel mixed chloride hydrometallurgical processing, is developing a hybrid process to enhance cobalt recovery. PRO’s experimental data is compared with plant information on cobalt behaviour in smelters. In final stages of iron rejection in the converters, the thermodynamics of the matte-slag system dictates the undesirable transfer of the cobalt to the final converter slags. This results in much lower cobalt recovery in the product Copper/Nickel matte (<60%) in present copper and nickel smelters. This information is used to transfer cobalt into desired quantity of converter slag. The enriched cobalt slag is subjected to PRO mixed chloride process to recover nickel, and cobalt as high value salts of importance in lithium ion batteries. From a typical converter slag containing 3.5% Ni, 1.5% Co, and 1.0% Cu, PRO leach process extracts 98 % Ni, and 98 % Co, and 99% Cu. Application of this process to enhance cobalt recovery in typical Copper/Nickel smelters is presented. In addition, this will also enhance the Copper and Nickel recovery. Both these aspects are of interest to the Copper, Nickel, and cobalt producers. INTRODUCTION In pyrometallurgical extraction of copper and nickel from sulphide ores cobalt often occurs with copper and nickel. The requirement of cobalt is increasing due to its need in lithium ion cells used in electric vehicles. Therefore its efficient and economical extraction in a form suitable for use in lithium batteries is of great interest at present. In the pyrometallurgical processing of copper and nickel sulphide concentrates the concentrate is smelted to produce a furnace matte, which is then sent for converting to remove the iron to produce iron free (~1% Fe) matte for further processing to copper or nickel matte. The copper/nickel matte is processed for metals recovery by hydrometallurgical or vapo-metallurgical or oxidation – reduction routes to make market products. As shown in Figures 1 and 2 the slags are produced in the smelting step and in the converting steps. The metal losses in smelting are controlled by the oxygen pressure in that step and slag production which is controlled by concentrate grade. The slag produced in the converting step which is carried out at a higher oxygen pressure contains higher level of metals is often returned to the smelting step to increase value metals recovery.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019