The Hydrometallurgy of Chalcopyrite in Ammoniacal Solutions

Additonal authors: Petersen, J.. 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

Moyo, T.

Ammoniacal solutions are attractive and effective lixiviants for the dissolution of chalcopyrite, allowing for the formation of stable ammine complexes with copper while rejecting iron. Chalcopyrite dissolution in ammoniacal solutions is reviewed from literature, and results from a recently completed study evaluating it through electrochemical and controlled leach studies are discussed. Ammoniacal leaching of copper ores dates back to 1916 in the leaching of low grade copper ores in the Kennecott leaching plant and in the Calumet and Hecla mines, followed by the commercialisation of the Sherrit Gordon process for the ammoniacal leaching of sulphide copper ores in 1948. Since then ammoniacal leaching has received intermittent focus from researchers with the development of the Anaconda’s Arbiter process and the unsuccessful Escondida process. In these leaching processes, the formation of surface deposits has historically been reported to result in the passivation of the chalcopyrite surfaces, whereas oxygen mass transfer in solutions has been the focus of process design improvements. Results of studies on high grade chalcopyrite material is presented in this paper which show that although a surface deposit was formed, it did not result in the passivation of chalcopyrite in ammoniacal solutions, and that while oxygen transfer is critical, it is not the direct oxidant in the reaction. INTRODUCTION Ammonia and its salts have been used in the hydrometallurgical treatment of non-ferrous metals such as copper, cobalt and nickel from oxide ores. Its chemistry allows for the selective dissolution of desired metals, leaving behind gangue including iron. Chalcopyrite is a copper sulphide ore known to be very stable and hence recalcitrant to many hydrometallurgical processing methods. Thus, the dissolution of chalcopyrite continues to be an attractive area of research. The dissolution of chalcopyrite in ammoniacal solutions is possible due to the stabilisation of copper(I) and copper (II) ions by ammonia in alkaline media. Ammonia has become more attractive as a lixiviant during the present socio-economic climate due to its low toxicity, relatively low cost and ease of regeneration by evaporation (Meng & Han, 1996). Ammonia processes are ideal when the gangue minerals are acid consuming e.g. with calcareous or dolomitic gangue (Paynter, 1973).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019