Teck’s Secondary Leaching Technology

Additonal authors: Stephens, R. L.. 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

Lizama, H. M.

Secondary leaching of previously leached supergene copper ore has been developed and implemented at Teck’s Quebrada Blanca operations. This consists of using in-situ leaching techniques aided by geophysics to recover the residual metal value from dormant copper leaching heaps. These heaps of crushed and agglomerated ore had been leached 20 years previously but still contained significant copper values. The concept was first tested on a 3,200 m² sector, where injection wells introduced leaching solution into a production zone and electro-resistivity tomography was used to track solution movement within. Operating parameters such as well spacing and injection flow rates were determined. Copper recovery and leaching performance were evaluated based on solution and metallurgical balances. Both ferric leaching and bacterial leaching were enhanced through strategies to pull air into the heap. Positive results from the initial test prompted a larger, industrial pilot test on a 60,000 m² area and 97 injection wells. This larger test obtained a copper recovery of 30% in 457 days. Secondary recovery is now being implemented to all of the abandoned heaps at Quebrada Blanca and has become a production stream. This technology has the potential of wide application to mature copper heap leach operations, and Teck has patented the process and associated methodologies. INTRODUCTION Heap leaching of copper secondary sulphides has been carried out at Quebrada Blanca (QB) since 1994. Ore from the supergene deposit was crushed and agglomerated prior to leaching. Originally, the ore was leached in 6 m lifts stacked one on top of another, known as a static pad configuration. However, in 1998, after the second lift, the operation changed to a dynamic pad configuration; the ore was leached in a single lift and the resulting residues were removed to make way for fresh ore (Yáñez, Ahlborn, & Ramos, 2007). The first two static lifts were left in place and served as a foundation for the dynamic lifts above. Those two buried lifts of leached residues, some 16.8 million tonnes and covering an area of approximately 0.71 million m², remained buried under the dynamic pad.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019