Speciation of Iron-Arsenic-Copper-Sulfuric Acid Solution during Copper Electrorefining from 25°C to 70°C

Additonal authors: Wesstrom, Bradford. 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

Dong, Yongteng

With increasingly low-grade copper ores being mined, it is difficult to handle growing concentrations of As, Sb, Bi and/or Fe in the whole flowsheet, especially during copper electrorefining. To better elucidate the effects of those impurities on the quality of cathode deposit and/or current efficiency, a detailed speciation study of the electrolyte under industrial conditions is required to quantitatively describe their distribution in the solution, thereby facilitating their effective control and removal. In the present study, a thermodynamic model of complicated iron-arsenic-copper-sulfuric acid electrolyte under industrial conditions was developed. The main species of those elements involved in the electrolyte were first identified, and their thermodynamic data were collected and critically assessed. Those data were then used to estimate the activity coefficients of species, and to calculate the equilibrium constants from 25°C to 70°C. The developed model provides a mathematical tool that is capable of quantifying the concentrations of free ions and complexes in terms of temperature and solution composition. Finally, oxidation-reduction potential measurements were employed to validate the model. INTRODUCTION In copper electrorefining, impurities like arsenic, antimony, bismuth and/or iron can partially dissolve in the electrolyte and accumulate gradually, and eventually cause problems such as bad cathode deposit (co-deposition with copper or mechanical inclusion from the floating slime), lower current efficiency, etc., which eventually increases the operating costs. The presence of impurities may substantially reduce properties of copper products such as conductivity, corrosion resistance, mechanical properties, and leads to more energy consumption (Schlesinger et al., 2011; Jafari et al., 2017). To remove these impurities, various methods have already been proposed and applied in industrial copper production, such as solvent extraction, ion exchange, chemical precipitation, absorption by activated carbon, etc. (Cunningham et al., 1997; Navarro et al., 1999; Toyabe et al., 1987). In addition, adding reducing agents such as sulfur dioxide and trivalent arsenic could also precipitate arsenic, antimony and bismuth from copper electrolyte, by changing the distribution of impurities with various valence (Braun et al., 1976; Xiao et al., 2007). The disadvantages of those methods include high energy consumption, serious contamination, lower selectivity and efficiency, and so on.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019