Processing Concentrate Leach Liquors by Solvent Extraction: Flow Distribution Considerations
Additonal authors: Wellbrook, B.. 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
Leaching of copper (Cu) concentrates produces elevated concentrations of Cu and acid, which makes solvent extraction (SX) processing more challenging. Maintaining extraction targets can be more difficult with higher pregnant leach solution (PLS) grades, and variability of PLS Cu and acid can lead to increased chemical iron transfer. Diluting concentrate leach feeds with an existing heap leach inventory makes SX processing easier. However, considerations about how much to dilute and where to distribute the flow into the SX configuration must be carefully evaluated, given their impact on metallurgical performance. In this paper, characteristics of a concentrate leach feed are discussed, along with considerations for processing by SX. Also reviewed are pilot plant results of concentrate leach distribution into SX and plans for commercial testing.
Hydrometallurgical processing of copper concentrates continues to gain interest from the industry. Treatment by smelting and electrorefining continues to dominate, accounting for ~80% of global copper production, but is faced with its own challenges (Li et al, 2017). The case for increased hydrometallurgical processing has been discussed as high grade ore deposits are diminishing, capital costs for smelting are high, and the environmental aspects present challenges for sustainable practice. The hydromet copper industry is also turning a corner as easily leachable copper oxide deposits are depleting, and excess SX-EW capacity exists in certain regions.
The transition to hydrometallurgical processing of copper concentrates will take a bit of effort as leaching of copper sulfides is difficult and byproduct credits must be considered. Various POX leaching processes have been studied and proposed to the industry as viable practices. Of the many processes, commercial use has been practiced with the Mount Gordon Copper Process, total and partial pressure oxidation by Freeport-McMoRan at their Bagdad and Morenci, Arizona complexes, the Sepon Copper Process in Laos, and the bioleach BIOCOP™ process in Chile (Dreisinger, 2016).
Copper 2019, COM2019