Recovery of Value-Added Metals from Copper Refining Streams Using Molecular Recognition Technology

Additonal authors: Izatt, N. E.. 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

Wang, S.

Green chemistry principles will be discussed, and examples will be given of the use of Molecular Recognition Technology (MRT) to selectively separate valuable metals such as rhenium and palladium from various copper refinery feed streams. Recovery of these metals has numerous advantages including (i) conservation of valuable resources, (ii) prevention of environmental damage, and (iii) elimination of capital and operating expenses due to re-processing or disposal of metal-bearing streams. INTRODUCTION Refining of copper ores has a long and successful story. The history of copper, one of the first metals mined in human history, illustrates the global challenges faced as a result of increased demand for major metals and for by-product specialty metals found with them in trace amounts (Izatt et al., 2014). Copper has valuable properties, which have sustained its use over the centuries. It is an ideal material for creation of novel materials. Some desirable properties of copper that have proved valuable in our high-technology society include suitability for alloying with many other metals; ease of joining by soldering and brazing; good combination of mechanical qualities; high resistance to corrosion; suitability for many artistic purposes; and, of great importance in the modern era, efficient and economic use as a conductor of electricity. Copper mining in the U.S.A. began in the late nineteenth century in Montana (Izatt et al., 2014). The estimated total amount of copper mined globally before 1800 is about 5 million tons, four times less than is mined in a single year today (Flanagan, 2018). Production of copper in the U.S.A. has remained fairly constant at about 1,300,000 to 1,400,000 metric tons per annum from 2013 to 2017. Specialty metals such as bismuth, rhenium, molybdenum, and others that have become essential in our 21st century technology, and precious metals such as silver, gold, and the platinum group metals (PGMs) are concentrated by geochemical processes in trace amounts in copper ores. These specialty and precious metals were discarded into tailings in early mining operations, since limited extractive technologies existed and uses for most of them were limited. Thus, economic benefits for recovering them were limited, primarily, to silver and gold. Today, copper processing is the main, and often the only, commercial source for certain of these elements (Izatt et al., 2014). For example, molybdenite (MoS2) is the predominant ore mineral of molybdenum mining (Pohl, 2011). Cu-Mo-Au porphyry ore deposits supply ~75% of the world’s copper, 50% of the molybdenum, nearly all of the rhenium, and 20% of the gold. Typical ore grades are 0.5–1.5% copper, 0.01–0.04% molybdenum, and <1.5 g/ton gold. Molybdenite is the primary source for rhenium, among the rarest of metals, which is an essential component of super alloys, such as turbine blades in the aerospace industry (Pohl, 2011). Most rhenium is obtained as a by-product of molybdenite from copper mines in Chile. The case of rhenium raises an important issue. Continued availability of rhenium, selectively concentrated in copper ores, depends on continued mining and processing of copper. Since the mining company’s main interest is typically in copper production, continued recovery of rhenium and other specialty elements present in the ore body is at risk. Dependence of specialty metal supply on continued mining of major metals exists in several additional cases including indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, germanium and bismuth (Pohl, 2011). PGMs, on the other hand, are typically mined for their own value, which far exceeds that of associated base metals. However, copper ores often contain marketable amounts of platinum and palladium, making their separation of interest, if this can be done economically.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019