Additonal authors: Kim, Namsoo P.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Iron (ferrous ions and ferric ions) plays an important role in the heap leaching of copper sulfide minerals and copper electrowinning. In our previous study, a novel oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) equation only based on the variables of temperature and nominal ferric/ferrous ratio was developed to predict the redox potential of the quaternary H2SO4-Fe2(SO4)3-FeSO4-H2O system, and its applicability was also extended to more complex acidic iron sulfate solutions, especially those generated during the acidic leaching and bioleaching of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) to recover copper. In this work, the broader range of applicability of this equation to other complicated acidic iron solutions containing copper ions has been extended and determined. Specifically, synthetic iron-containing solutions with copper ions according to the conditions of industrial electrolyte during copper electrowinning and heap leaching have been used to measure the ORP and test the developed equation. It seems that this equation can still be employed to predict the redox potential of the Fe3+/Fe2+ couple for the simulated solutions under conditions related to copper electrowinning and pregnant leaching solution generated during heap leaching over a wide range of solution concentration, nominal Fe3+/Fe2+ ratio and temperature. It has shown that the prediction and measurement of redox potential is highly useful to estimate and understand the iron chemistry of industrial leaching and electrowinning processes.
It is well-known that iron (ferric or ferrous) ions are widely involved in the hydrometallurgical production of non-ferrous metals such as Cu, Au and Zn, mainly in the form of acidic iron sulfate solutions. As far as Cu is concerned, in a typical leaching-solvent extraction-electrowinning process, ferric ion plays a central role in the heap leaching process and is reduced to ferrous ions in the pregnant leaching solution. Ferric ion is the most important surrogate oxidant and the dissolved ferric/ferrous couple plays an important catalytic role in accelerating the leaching rate with oxygen as an oxidant (Peters et al., 1986; Schlesinger, King, Sole, & Davenport, 2011).
In addition, during the traditional electro-winning process, oxygen is evolved at the anode, and copper is reduced at the cathode. A common idea is that iron in the electrolyte in copper electrowinning cell (with total iron of 1–4.4 g/L) plays an important role in reducing the current efficiency. According to the published results (Winand et al., 1975; Dew et al., 1985; Moats et al., 2009; Khouraibchia et al., 2010), thecurrent efficiency decreases linearly with increasing ferric ion concentration and the energy consumption increase was mainly caused by the decrease in current efficiency.