Seeking Hydrometallurgical Pathways for Chalcopyrite Leaching: Development of a Thermodynamic Model

Additonal authors: Bourgeois, F.. 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

Touchard, C. S.

Developing a hydrometallurgical process that can overcome the refractory nature of chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) to leaching still eludes the minerals industry, despite major research efforts spanning decades. The several leaching experiments of this ore in sulfuric acid tend toward the same conclusion that the precipitation of elemental sulfur or iron containing species are the main dissolution inhibitors. Describing both the electrolyte composition and the various solid phases in equilibrium for the Fe-H2SO4-H2O system is essential to overcome this issue and to find an operating window. According to the thermodynamic models and to the thermodynamic data, we demonstrate, in this study, the need to use the Specific ion Interactive Theory (SIT) model to describe complex electrolytic systems through a limited number of parameters. Hence, the binary interactions for our case study have to be defined and estimated. This work develops a methodology to determine these parameters of the SIT model up to 90°C and an acid concentration of 1 mol/kg from published data for H2SO4-H2O and Fe(II)-H2SO4-H2O sub-systems or from new experimental data for the Fe(III)-H2SO4-H2O one. This method will eventually be applied to copper systems to lead to a thermodynamic description of the complete CuFeS2-H2SO4-H2O system. INTRODUCTION A leaching process consists in the dissolution of a solid phase into an aqueous medium in order to extract compounds of interest. It is a key step in the hydrometallurgical processes used in the primary production and recycling of metal components. One of the main leaching issues is the formation of passivating layers on the surface of solid particles, whose consequence is a partial or total hindrance of the dissolution. The leaching of chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) in sulfuric acid is a prime example. No industrial solution for the atmospheric pressure leaching of this ore has been developed to date because of passivation phenomena caused by the formation of elemental sulfur or iron-containing precipitates on the surface of the particles (Li, Kawashima, Li, Chandra, & Gerson, 2013). In the 1970s, the Pourbaix diagrams established for the Cu-Fe-S-H2O system at 25°C for low concentrated solutions (Garrels & Christ, 1965; Peters, 1976) agreed that copper and iron are fully dissolved at high potential and in acidic medium (pH < 4). However, they neglected the many stable solid phases that can form in these conditions. In addition, the Pourbaix diagrams of chalcopyrite in water, calculated with two recent databases (FactPS and Thermoddem 2017) associated to FactSage and PhreeqC softwares respectively, show large discrepancies at 75°C (Figure 1). Indeed, at high potential, FactSage predicts the formation of goethite FeOOH at a pH value of 1, while PhreeqC predicts the formation of jarosite (H3O)[Fe3(SO4)2(OH)6] for pH greater than 2.5.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019