Chemical Solution Control

Milligan, David A. ; Muhtadi, Omar A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 17
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
7.1 INTRODUCTION The circulating fluid (generally an aqueous cyanide solution) is the major active component of heap leaching. This solution extracts precious metal from the heap and is then processed to recover the precious metal. The solution continuously recycles through the heap to recover more precious metal. With each cycle through the heap, water and chemicals are lost. Make-up water and chemicals must be added to balance losses from evaporation, seepage, entrainment, and chemical reaction in the heap, as well as any other processing losses. Adding more water than needed can result in a build-up of water as inventory in the various ponds and can eventually require that water be discharged from the operation. This is an extremely undesirable condition, and can often be very expensive in both investment in water treating facilities and operating costs. Most heap leach facilities operate under a zero discharge permit; thus, a situation requiring water discharge can result in permit violation. Chemical solution control must be managed to maintain the optimum pH, dissolved oxygen content, and cyanide content, while preventing "scaling". Calcium-based precipitation is a common scaling problem in mill reclaim waters. A buildup of these deposits can result in severe reduction of water flow, loss of pump efficiency and eventual interruption in metal production. In addition, problems of plugged sprinkler heads, blinded leach pads and fouled carbon (in carbon recovery systems) can be and often are experienced when scale control is not maintained. The remainder of this chapter discusses chemical solution control and scaling prediction/prevention in the context of a "closed" system. Sizing of ponds to accommodate precipitation and runoff, collection systems, and other similar design considerations are not discussed here. These topics are deferred to later chapters, e.g. Chapter 10 considers design of collection systems while Chapter 12 discusses pond sizing. 7.2 CHEMICAL CONTROL Chemical composition of the circulating solution must be controlled by the operator if the heap leaching process is to be successful. The primary or essential chemical control parameters in any heap leaching operation are:
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