Operational Practices To Reduce Copper And Other Metals Loading Onto Activated Carbon In Heap Leach CIC Circuits - Introduction - Preprint 09-109

Cousins, B.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2009
Copper, nickel, zinc and other ?penalty? metals are found with gold together in nature, and have a similar chemical affinity for cyanide used in leaching operations4. As a result, solutions that come from the heap leach pads contain a significant concentration of penalty metals along with the desired gold. In solution, gold and cyanide form the complex Au(CN)2- that is readily adsorbed onto activated carbon. Penalty metals as individual metal ions also load onto activated carbon and, depending on the concentration of cyanide and the pH of the solution, can form various cyanide complexes. Some of these complexes can also load onto carbon while some are significantly inhibited from loading. Copper, for example, can form the dicyanide complex Cu(CN)2-, the tricyanide complex Cu(CN)32-, and the tetracyanide complex Cu(CN)43-. At a low pH and a low concentration of cyanide, the dicyanide complex predominates. At a higher pH and a higher concentration of cyanide, the tetracyanide complex predominates. Without excess cyanide, however, individual copper ions can remain present. Activated carbon is used in gold extraction because it is highly selective for gold and less so for other metals, such as copper3. However, copper has the ability to adsorb (?load?) onto activated carbon and block the adsorption of gold when it is in the dicyanide form and in a high enough concentration. When copper is in the tetracyanide form, copper loading is significantly inhibited, allowing for the maximum gold recovery. In order to ensure the tetracyanide complex is formed, a combination of both available cyanide and elevated pH must be present. In the South Area of Newmont Mining Corporation?s Gold Quarry mine in Carlin, Nevada, copper and nickel loading becomes a problem when certain acid generating zones of the heap are leached. Copper, nickel, zinc and other penalty metals become leachable and the lower pH uses up more of the cyanide and creates carbon loading conditions for the metals. This decreases the carbon?s ability to extract the gold from solution, decreasing the recovery and increasing the concentration of gold in the barren solution that leaves the carbon columns. In this study, operational data from March through to May of 2007 is presented to show how Newmont developed a quick fix to lower pH and elevated metal concentrations that were causing low gold loadings on activated carbon at their South Area Leach (SAL) heap leach operations. Laboratory tested were also conducted to examine the chemical kinetics of metal loading and the individual effects of increased cyanide concentrations. THEORY Copper I ions form four different complexes with cyanide in solution: the monocyanide species CuCN, the dicyanide species Cu(CN)2-, the tricyanide species Cu(CN)32-, and the tetracyanide species Cu(CN)43-. The species are formed from the following reactions: [Cu)(?+-+ K1 (1) Cu ß2 (2) --+?+23)(3CNCuCNCu ß3 (3) --+?+34)(4CNCuCNCu ß4 (4) ] where K1 equals 1019.50, ß2 equals 1024.03, ß3 equals 1028.65, and ß4 equals 1030.35. Along with these complexing reactions, hydrogen cyanide and water also dissociate in solution, as per the following reactions: [H?+-+ KH (5) OHOHH2?+-+ KW (6)] where KH has a value of 109.24 and KW has a 1014 value2. These six chemical equations compete with each other, with domination of one over the others dependent on the CN- and H+ concentrations. Each complex also has different properties when it comes to its loading behavior on activated carbon. The dicyanide copper complex and the monocyanide copper complex have an affinity for adsorption onto activated carbon that is greater than the affinity of gold cyanide for adsorption. They also have a lower solubility in water, which enhances adsorption. The tricyanide copper complex and the tetracyanide copper complex are water soluble and have an affinity for loading adsorption on activated carbon that is less than the affinity of gold cyanide for loading adsorption1. There are three prime reasons for this phenomenon. First, the extra cyanides mask the metal ion more, which blocks the main adsorption characteristic of the complex. Second, the complexes are also larger, making it harder to physically fit into the active sites on the carbon. This helps make the latter two complexes kinetically inhibited from adsorption, freeing carbon active site to load with gold cyanide complexes. Third, it is also important to consider the expressions of the mass and charge balance. These balances describe all the overall concentration of copper and cyanide in solution, as well as marking overall charges of the ions in solution4. This is important because significantly changing the charge from positive/neutral to more negative is another reason for activated carbon to reject adsorbing the higher cyanide complexes. The speciation of copper and other penalty metal cyanide complexes in solution is dependent on the pH. At lower pH values, increased hydrogen ions (H+) can out-compete metals for cyanide ions. Lower free cyanide in the system leads to the lower cyanide species of copper cyanide predominating, with a noticeable concentration of the free metal, monocyanide and dicyanide species of copper cyanide. At higher pH values, hydrogen ions are significantly reduced, reducing the kinetics of HCN formation. More free cyanide remains in the system, allowing for more complexing. With this higher amount of cyanide in the system, the tetracyanide species of copper cyanide predominates, also with a noticeable concentration of the tricyanide species of copper cyanide. Higher copper concentrations, however, require more
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