Technology Options and Innovation for Copper Heap Leaching

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 metallurgical heart of the majority of copper oxide processes is the heap leaching operation. Fresh low grade sulfide ores is a far greater challenge.The success of this unit operation is so important that operators need to understand the ramifications of their decisions or non-decisions and how they could affect the downstream processing. Heap leaching is an operation that can be described as a scientific art whereby principles of science can be used to guide experienced personnel in attaining their goals. Recent advances have been made based on better understanding the ore characteristics. The success of a heap leach operation, or otherwise, is dependent upon a number of factors, notably: The type of ore to be treated The extent of testwork completed to define the process The interpretation of the testwork results Ore preparation prior to stacking Agglomeration and curing requirements Other issues are: Compliance with the ’smaller’ requirements of environmental authorities Adequate and timely drainage of solution from the base of a leaching lift The degree of saturation in the pads Heap porosity – coarser or finer ore, which is better? Higher or lower irrigation rates – which would produce a better result? Laying out irrigation pipework for ease of operation and maintenance The addition of water, raffinate during agglomeration where needed The heap leaching of sulfide ores, including chalcopyrite, via enhanced bacterial leaching is discussed. INTRODUCTION Over the last twenty years, production of extremely pure copper from solvent extraction and electrowinning (SX/EW) has become more common in a market of real declining prices for copper metal. This paper touches on a number of heap leach operations and experiences. These projects were subjected to extensive engineering design and resulted in low capital cost, efficient operations with a number of lessons learned. The key to these operations was the performance of the heaps and associated fluid collection systems rather than the plants themselves.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019