Upgrading Copper Sulphide Concentrates Through High Temperature Metathesis Reactions

Additonal authors: Byrne, K. 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

Hawker, W.

The average grade of copper concentrate is steadily declining, forcing the industry to turn to lower grade and metallurgically challenging orebodies. When faced with a low grade, challenging ore, mining companies are often forced to choose between high recovery at low grade or low recovery at high grade. Hydrometallurgical processing of copper concentrates using metathesis reactions, which replace iron with copper in copper-iron sulphide minerals and increase the copper to sulphur ratio in copper sulphide minerals, provide an opportunity to upgrade copper concentrates and potentially allow high copper recovery for a high grade concentrate. Factors such as concentrate mineralogy, reaction time and temperature, and the concentrations of copper, chloride and acid in solution are reported to affect the reaction extent and mineral phases formed by metathesis. In this paper, a copper concentrate has been studied over a wide range of conditions to investigate the influence of these key parameters on the extent of copper metathesis reactions and product phases formed. Solution and solid phases are assayed with the main mineral phases identified by Quantitative X-Ray Diffraction. INTRODUCTION The minerals present in copper deposits determine the prospective processing options either: pyrometallurgical or hydrometallurgical. For copper oxide ores, copper is typically present as oxides, carbonate, chlorides, silicates and sulphates. These minerals are readily solubilised in acid and are usually treated through hydrometallurgical processes. The typical process route for copper oxides is to leach copper into aqueous solution, purify and upgrade the solution phase through solvent extraction and then recover copper as metal by electrowinning (Davenport, King, Schlesinger, & Biswas, 2002). Copper sulphide deposits may contain a multitude of copper bearing minerals, including chalcopyrite, bornite, enargite, covellite, digenite and chalcocite. The copper ore grade and treatment options are affected by the mineral type and distribution. Sulphide ores are typically treated through comminution and mineral flotation to form concentrates, followed by pyrometallurgical smelting. Hydrometallurgy can also be used to process sulphides depending on the mineralogy and impurity levels (Davenport et al., 2002). The trend of decreasing copper grade with increasing impurity levels are common across the mining industry and pose future challenges to copper processing. This trend has prompted research into hydrometallurgical options for upgrading copper concentrates. One promising hydrometallurgical option is using metathesis reactions. Metathesis reactions, sometimes also called double replacement or displacement reactions, are chemical processes involving the exchange of bonds between two chemical compounds or species. In this case, the metathesis reactions involve copper in solution exchanging with cations in the solid sulphide concentrate. The driving force for copper sulphide metathesis is the relative affinity of the exchanging cation elements for sulphide. Based on sulphide precipitation diagrams, the expected order of affinity for sulphide should be Hg2+ > Ag+ > Cu+ > Cu2+ > Bi3+ > Cd2+ > Pb2+ > Sn2+ > Zn2+ > Co2+ > Ni2+ > Fe2+ > Mn2+ (Monhemius, 1977). Hence, copper metathesis reactions are capable of increasing copper content and removing impurities such as iron, nickel, zinc and lead from copper concentrates.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019