Options for Removing Arsenic and Talc from a Copper Concentrate

Additonal authors: . 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

Connelly, Damian

The option to leach iron from low grade copper concentrates could reduce transport costs and significantly improve the saleability of the concentrate. In addition, it reduces smelting costs and can remove undesirable impurities. The trend to produce cleaner and higher grade copper concentrates is very appealing to the smelters. A recent copper project came on line and there were three serious deficiencies which were not identified in the feasibility study. This came as a surprise and resulted in a number of projects to investigate ways of rectifying the problems in the shortest timeframe possible and using minimal new capital. The first serious issued not identified when commissioning was the lower than expected copper recovery, which was 70% compared to a predicted recovery of 80% to 87% in the feasibility study. This required investigating new flotation reagents and incorporating controlled potential sulphidisation. The second serious issue overlooked is the presence of significant amounts of talc minerals (insol) in the ore which are naturally floatable. This leads to lower concentrate grade and attempts to remove the talc resulted in lower copper recovery. Smelters have limits on the amount of talc in concentrate because it produces viscous slags and difficulties for the smelter. It also incurs higher transport costs. The third serious issue not identified in the feasibility study was the high arsenic reporting to the concentrate. Arsenic is a penalty element for smelters and at levels exceeding 0.3% the smelters may reject the concentrate. Arsenic is a problem environmentally for copper smelters and penalties apply when it is high. This paper describes the options for penalty element removal and suitability to incorporate into the modified flowsheet. It also highlights where the geometallurgy was not properly addressed and how these surprises could have been avoided. INTRODUCTION From 1970 to 1985, a copper company undertook metallurgical testwork on the Peruvian project copper ore. The ores were mined underground and treated over many years previously. Various other groups undertook studies and work until Aker Kvaerner undertook a feasibility study in 2006. Three ore composites were tested and grind-recovery relationships were developed. The feasibility study testwork identified that talc was a possible concern and will have an impact on copper concentrate grade. This was to be managed by blending. The current operating reality is that there is so much talc in the ore body it is not possible to blend it out. There was far more emphasis on molybdenum recovery. No mention was made of arsenic issues other than blending. There was a Concentrate Leach Study and a Molybdenum Hydrometallurgical Plant Study but these options did not proceed to a final flowsheet. A Scoping Study in 2006 looked at a Heap Leach project. The heap leaching gave very poor copper recovery on the sulphide ore. Heap Leaching was evaluated and tested for the high talc and high arsenic ore but recoveries were poor. The Aker Kvaerner feasibility study opted for a simple primary crush SAG/ball grind followed by flotation and sale of a concentrate. This is the current flowsheet utilised and the scale of the project is very large based on processing 117,200 tonnes of ore per day. A feasibility study does not guarantee success and the deviations from the feasibility study suggest there is a lot of technical work required to improve the current metallurgical performance.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019