|Summary / Abstract
||CHILE EXPLORATION CO's. oxide plant at Chuquicamata, the largest of its kind, started in 1915 with initial operations at the rate of 10,000 tons of ore per day. Anaconda Copper Mining Co. acquired the controlling interest in 1923 and in the next few years modernized the plant and mine, extending operations to a nominal capacity of 490 million lb of electrolytic copper yearly by 1942. Plant production averaging 495.7 million lb of copper per year was maintained for the eight-year period extending from 1941 to 1948 inclusive. During the World War II production reached its highest level when in 1944 the output was 531.8 million lb. The maximum production for any one month was 49.6 million lb, achieved in May 1947.
E. A. Cappelen Smith, consulting metallurgist for M. Guggenheim's Sons, worked out the first process for the treatment of Chuquicamata copper oxide ore about 1913, and directed a staff of 20 young engineers operating a pilot plant at Perth Amboy, N. J., on three shifts for an entire year.
The copper is extracted from the oxide ore by a hydro-metallurgical treatment described in detail by T. A. Campbell in AIME Transactions, Vol. 106, Copper Metallurgy, 1933.
The Oxide Plant is divided into five main operations as follows: (1) Crushing, (2) Leaching, including dechloridizing and sulphur dioxide treatment, (3) Tailing disposal, (4) Electrolytic precipitation, (5) Smelting and melting.
The present Primary Crushing Plant has been in operation 25 years, during which time 4,342,112 cars of 70 tons net capacity have passed through the dumpers. The ore as received from the mine is frequently blocky and up to 5 feet in section. It is reduced to 9-in. size by two 60-in. gyratory crushers, and transported to the east and west ore bins by 60-in. conveyors.
In the secondary crushing operation the ore is first reduced to 2 to 3-in. size by five standard 7-ft cone crushers and two No. 10 gyratories. This product is then reduced to 3/8-in. size by fifty-two 48-in. vertical Symons disc crushers and is transported by belt conveyors to the loading bridges from which it is charged° into the leaching vats.
Conveyor belt No. 14 which serves the eight vats in the east section of the leaching plant has transported over 125 million tons of ore, which is a record for any type of conveyor. This 60-in. belt travels at a speed of 600 fpm and carries loads up to 5500 tons per hr.
The ore is leached in 14 vats, averaging 13,500 short tons net capacity each. These vats are lined with a natural mastic which adequately resists the sulphuric acid leaching solutions.
The leaching process as presently conducted comprises soaking the ore with successive volumes of leaching solution and spent electrolyte and withdrawing successive volumes of enriched solution from the vat to a total of approximately 3.2 million gal. The first 1.6 million gal of this volume withdrawn is called strong solution and contains about 35 parts of copper per 1000. The balance of 1.6 million gal subsequently withdrawn is stored in a