Additonal authors: Pleshkov, M. A.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Fomenko, I. V.
Low-grade copper concentrates (with copper content less than 20%) often contain impurities such as arsenic, zinc, lead, mercury, antimony and bismuth. The pyrometallurgical treatment of such concentrates is associated with several problems, which will ultimately affect the cost and the quality of copper cathodes as well as by-products.
SRC Hydrometallurgy proposed a complex hydrometallurgical technology which allows the removal of impurities and the enrichment of low-grade copper concentrates to a quality which will be more suitable for pyrometallurgical processing. Laboratory batch tests and pilot plant results for the pressure leaching steps are shown in this paper. The key parameters of the leaching steps were determined and optimized. The quality of possible by-products were also determined.
The developed flowsheet includes two pressure leaching steps: pressure oxidation (POX) and hydrothermal alteration (HTA). Both operations are carried out at 170°C with subsequent flotation of POX and HTA residues and recovery of copper, zinc and lead into separate concentrates for further processing. The development of the flowsheet was based on the Balkhash Zinc Plant (Balkhash, Kazakhstan), which had been non-operational since 2009. The developed flowsheet for processing of low-grade concentrates will utilize 80% of the existing equipment of the Balkhash Zinc Plant, thus leading to a significant reduction in required capital expenditure.
As the age of copper mining operations advance, copper grades continue to diminish and impurity levels increase. Therefore, copper producers are forced to look for new innovative hydrometallurgical technologies which are able to handle low-grade raw materials and solve problems associated with impurities in an economically justifiable way. New technologies allow to extract valuable components selectively and to process low-grade concentrates which had previously been marked as non-technological and economically unviable.
Hydrometallurgical technologies for processing of copper-containing materials can be divided into two main categories: chloride and sulfate (atmospheric, autoclave and bacterial) based technologies. Since the 1970s, many autoclave techniques for the processing of copper-containing materials have been developed and implemented (Naboichenko, 2002; Dreisinger, 2005; Habashi, 2009; Shneerson, 2011). The mineralogical composition of the ore (or concentrates), geographical location of the deposit, distance from industrial areas, availability of existing treatment facilities, availability of skilled labor, cost of electricity and cost of neutralization are some of the factors which are usually considered when the appropriate technology is selected (Halbe, 2002).