Mineralogical Characterization and Metallurgical Processing of Seafloor Massive Sulphides from the German License Area in the Indian Ocean

Additonal authors: Friedmann, D.. 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

Sommerfeld, M.

The steadily growing demand for metals and their price increase at metal exchanges make the mining and utilization of marine mineral resources like polymetallic nodules, manganese crusts or sulfide deposits in the near future a viable option to potentially increase the supply of base and precious metals. For a country with low potential to mine land-based resources like Germany, the industrial recovery of metals from marine mineral resources could lead to a decreased dependency on imports. In this study, seafloor massive sulfides from the German license area in the Indian Ocean (Kairei field, Southern Central Indian Ridge) are treated to recover copper and precious metals. The aim of the project is to demonstrate the transferability of existing metallurgical techniques to the raw material of deep-sea massive sulfides. As a starting point to process this unconventional resource, samples from the Indian Ocean are chemically analyzed and mineralogical characterized. A comparison is carried out between the samples and land-based copper resources, to highlight the potential which lies in mining the deep-sea floor. This paper will show the general possibility of applying a two-stage pyrometallurgical process, based on a concentrate smelting operation, followed by a converting operation in lab-scale to the provided samples of massive sulfides. Generated slag from the concentrate smelting and the converting operation are investigated by X-ray diffraction to determine the mineralogical composition. The two-stage pyrometallurgical process is investigated by the thermochemical modelling tool FactSageTM 7.2 to evaluate the phase distribution of relevant elements between the metal, matte, slag and gas phase. The thermochemical boundaries of the pyrometallurgical process are therefore set and the results of the thermochemical study can be used as an indicator for the efficiency of an up-scaled process and the generated amount of side-streams, which need to be further treated or circulated back into the process. INTRODUCTION Seafloor massive sulfides (SMS) are the third kind of discovered deep-sea minerals besides ferromanganese nodules and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts (Sharma, 2017). They occur in water depths around 250–4,000 m (Koschinsky et al., 2018). SMS are characterized by a high base metal and sulfide content. They were created by fluid circulation and hydrothermal convection over time (Han et al., 2018). Commonly, areas rich in SMS are associated with hydrothermal vent fields on the seafloor (Keith et al., 2018).
Mots Clés: Copper 2019, COM2019