Kinetics of Chalcopyrite Leaching in Novel and Exotic Lixiviants

Additonal authors: Hiskey, J. Brent. 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

Barton, Isabel F.

Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) is the earth’s most abundant copper ore mineral, but is refractory to leaching with sulfates, chlorides, and other common lixiviants and oxidants. This has led to increasing research into alternative lixiviants for recovering Cu from chalcopyrite. Here, we review the leach kinetics of chalcopyrite in glycine, ionic liquids, and methanesulfonic acid, compared to baseline ferric sulfate and ferric chloride. Glycine (CH2NH2COOH) has long been used in applications such as biocatalysis and electroplating, and has recently been examined as a lixiviant for whole ores and concentrates of both copper and gold. It is nontoxic, biodegradable, and capable of strongly complexing Cu2+. Compatible oxidants are peroxide, dissolved oxygen, and ferric sulfate. Chalcopyrite leaching rate in glycine is chemical reaction-controlled, but the effects of grain size and the reaction orders with respect to lixiviant and oxidant concentrations and mass transfer vary. The use of ionic liquids as a leaching agent for chalcopyrite has been extensively investigated in recent years. This system is based primarily on the use of the imidazolium molecule (C3H5N2), which is a planar 5-member ring structure. This lixiviant has been applied to the leaching of chalcopyrite in the form of pure mineral, concentrates, and ores. Kinetics of ionic liquid leaching of chalcopyrite vary substantially depending on the type and concentration of ionic liquid. Methanesulfonic acid (HCH3SO3) is one of the newest lixiviants available in leaching, having only been examined in the last decade. It has been examined as a substitute for sulfuric acid, since it is less corrosive, is biodegradable, and breaks down to carbon dioxide and sulfate over time. The rate of copper leaching from chalcopyrite by methanesulfonic acid is controlled by diffusion and exhibits a strong dependence on oxidant type and concentration. Despite promising reaction rates and total extraction by some of these novel lixiviants, comparison with baseline ferric sulfate and ferric chloride systems makes it doubtful that any will be commercially viable in the near term. Only at very high reagent concentrations and temperatures, and/or very fine grain size, did any of the systems perform comparably to the much cheaper ferric chloride at extracting Cu from chalcopyrite. Most had similar overall reaction rates and total extraction to ferric sulfate, which is relatively common and cheap. However, the leaching kinetics of these novel lixiviants offer valuable insight into the dissolution behavior of chalcopyrite in various systems.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019