Reagent Development in the 90's - A Perspective

Virnig, M. J. ; Kordosky, G. A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
Throughout time, the mining industry has been very successful in meeting the world's requirements for metals and materials while meeting the challenges of decreasing ore grades and increased emphasis on protection of the environment. This success has been due to the development and implementation of new technologies. A clear example of such a development over the past 25 years is the increasing use of leaching/solvent extraction/electrowinning for the recovery of copper from oxide and sulfide ores. The key to the successful introduction of this technology was the discovery and development of the hydroxyoxime liquid ion exchange reagents by General Mills Chemicals (now Henkel Corporation). An important role was also played by the close working relationships between General Mills Chemicals and Ranchers Exploration which resulted in startup of the first plant in 1968 and between General Mills Chemicals and Bagdad Copper which resulted in the startup of the second copper SX-EW plant in August of 1970. Following on the heels of the hydroxyoxime development came the commercialization of other new chelating reagents based on different chemical functionalities, i.e., beta-diketones, alkylated 8- hydroxyquinolines and sulfonamidoquinolines. This initial spurt of activity was then followed by a slowing of development in terms of new reagent functionalities. Activity has continued in terms of further optimization/improvement of existing reagent functionalities but the commercialization of new reagent functionalities has slackened. This observation reflects the fact that the development of new reagent functionalities for metal recovery has become increasingly more expensive such that the right combination of price and sales volume must exist in order to justify the investment required to bring a new reagent to the market place. Given the dependence of the mining industry on innovation to meet the needs of the future, one can ask how these new developments, particularly in new reagents, will occur. To arrive at an estimate of the costs involved in commercializing a new metal extractant functionality, particularly a chelating type functionality, a case study of the development of LIX ®* 34
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