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|5.1 INTRODUCTION Heap leach cyanidation techniques possess considerable potential for exploitation of low-grade ores, small ore bodies, mine strip waste and tailing materials where fine grinding is not necessary for good extraction. For heap leaching to be successfu1, ore must exhibit certain characteristics, as previously discussed in Chapter 1. Primary among the necessary ore characteristics is that the ore must have good permeability after being crushed or treated and stacked into heaps if uniform distribution of the cyanide leach solution is to be achieved. Gold and silver ores containing excessive amounts of clays or fines generated by crushing are some of the most difficult to treat successfully by heap leaching. The presence of excessive amounts of slimes (generally classified as minus 50-micron or 270 Tyler mesh sieve size particles) in the heap leach feed will slow the percolation flow of the leach solution, cause channeling, or produce dormant or unleached areas within the heap. This may result in unreasonably long leaching periods and poor extractions. In extreme cases, the clays or slimes can completely seal the ore heap, causing the leach solution to run off the sides of the heap rather than to penetrate the ore heap. The problem of heap leaching ores containing fines can be aggravated during stacking and preparation of the ore heaps, because natural sorting of coarse and fine material occurs during these steps (Johanson, 1978). This phenomenon results in a concentration of ore fines at the center of individual ore piles and a concomitant concentration of larger rock fragments on the lower slopes and base of the piles. When the individual piles within the heap are leveled off prior to installation of the sprinkling system which delivers the leach solution, additional segregation occurs as the fines sift through the coarser ore particles. The segregation results in localized areas or zones with marked differences in permeability. As a consequence, the leach solutions follow the path of least resistance, percolating downward through the coarse ore regions and bypassing or barely wetting areas that contain large amounts of fines or slimes. Effective utilization of marginal gold and silver resources through heap leach processing requires the development of new methods in order to achieve more uniform size distribution during ore heap preparation and better slime control during leaching.|