|Summary / Abstract
||For several decades, the minerals industry has used leaching techniques to extract metals from rocks whose grade was too low to be treated profitably using conventional metallurgical techniques, and, as of 1972, about 15% of domestic copper production was derived using leaching methods (Beall 1). Increasing interest is currently being directed toward solution mining, particularly with respect to copper, for basically two reasons. In the first place, geological exploration has outlined several copper deposits of large tonnage and 1m', grade which are buried at sufficient depth to preclude open-pit mining which would make such mineral deposits ore deposits. Nevertheless, these occurrences provide significant potential if they could be treated by chemical leaching in situ. Secondly, the porphyry deposits of the western united States, which provide by far the largest percentage of domestic copper, do not terminate geometrically with sharp borders. These large disseminated bodies commonly decrease in grade laterally away from volumes of rock containing ore grade metallization, and the distinction between ore and waste is strictly economic. In order to extract ore grade material from the ground, a significant amount of rock containing sub-ore-grade copper must also be removed which, when placed on dumps, is amenable to solution mining. These two considerations clearly indicate the reasons for the growing interest in solution , leaching techniques--namely the ability to exploit deeply buried low grade deposits and the expansion of reserves in deposits currently under production.