Reduction of Silver Loss in Copper Cathode

Additonal authors: Reddy, Lakshmikanth. 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

Desai, Bhavin

Gold and platinum group metals (PGM) do not dissolve in sulfate electrolyte from anode during electro-refining of primary copper. The PGM form solid ‘slimes’ which accumulates at bottom of the electrolytic cell. Typically, 8 to 10 ppm silver is present in copper cathodes, which is equivalent to almost 2% of silver loss during electro-refining. The silver can be cemented with cathode copper as soon as it is dissolved into the electrolyte from anode or during entrapment of slime particles in cathode. Over a period of time, the concentrates grade has deteriorated and change in type & amount of impurities in concentrate has resulted in higher silver loss during refining process. Therefore, an in-depth investigation was carried out in both fire- and electro-refining processes to understand the root causes of higher silver loss in copper cathodes. The detailed characterization and the plant data analysis were carried out. The results of study revealed that higher silver loss in 3rd crop cathodes as compared to 1st and 2nd crop cathodes from same anode. In anode silver was present in two forms, dissolved in copper (solid solution) and in slime phases such as Cu2-xAgxSeTe. SEM-EDX study of anode cross section confirmed higher silver and oxygen content in central region (core) of anode as compared that in both air and mold sides. This is due to non-uniform cooling of anode which was confirmed by the solidification modeling. Higher concentration of oxygen & silver at core of anode rised Ag+ concentration in electrolyte and slime particles during 3rd crop. The results of study were used to optimize the anode cooling process and also electrolyte chemistry to reduce the silver loss. The details of study carried out are discussed in this paper using the results of modeling, characterization and experimental studies. INTRODUCTION In the electrolytic refining of copper, fire refined copper anodes are used as raw material. Anodes contains copper of the range 99.5 to 99.6%, rest being the impurities. Hence, the purpose of the refining is (1) to remove the impurities so that final cathode conforms to the LME specifications and also (2) to recover the precious metal from the anode copper. When anode is dissolved, most of the impurities reports to the anode slime settled at the bottom of the cell, and rest dissolves in the electrolyte. Dissolved impurities remains in electrolyte and are removed during electrolyte recycling. However, sometime dissolved impurities and slime particles get entrapped in cathode due to disturbances in operational conditions. Metals dissolving in the electrolyte are the elements such as Ni, Co, Fe, Zn. The electrode potential of As, Sb and Bi being close to that of copper, these elements partly dissolve in the electrolyte. Noble metals like Ag, Au, Pt and Pd are generally insoluble and are thus expected to report to the anode slime. A small amount of the sliver content from the anode is dissolved in the electrolyte. Because the dissolved silver electroplates on the cathode at a smaller applied potential than copper, the cathode typically contains up to 8 ppm of silver. This is referred to as ‘silver loss’ in cathode (Cooper, 1987). Fortunately, silver is a rather benign impurity in copper due to its electrical conductivity being higher than copper. However, higher silver loss in cathode is loss of revenue for Copper smelter due to significant difference in their LME price.
Mots Clés: Copper 2019, COM2019