Metal Extraction (Recovery Systems)

Muhtadi, Omar A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 13
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
8.1 INTRODUCTION Several methods currently exist by which gold may be recovered from a pregnant leach liquor. Two of these methods are discussed in this chapter, the Merrill-Crowe (zinc cementation) process and the carbon adsorption process. These two methods represent the most frequently used techniques for gold extraction and are, -in fact, used almost exclusively in U.S. heap leaching operations. Because of the efficiency and ease of use of these two methods, it is extremely likely they will continue to be quite prevalent within the gold mining industry in years to come. The remainder of this chapter includes information on the history of the two processes, descriptions of the actual processes, criteria to consider in selecting a recovery process, and commercial design and construction considerations for both of the gold recovery methods. As with other chapters in this book, some fairly technical information is presented for the benefit of those readers needing a greater level of detail. However, the overall intent of the chapter is to provide an overview of the processes likely to be used in gold extraction, thus giving the reader a firm basis for more technical research into the topic, should this be needed. 8.1.1 History of Zinc Cementation During the late 18901s, zinc cementation was introduced for the precipitation of gold and silver from cyanide solutions. This occurred at about the same time as the introduction of the cyanidation process, the history of which is recapped in Chapter 1. The initial cementation process involved introduction of a gold-bearing cyanide solution onto a bed of zinc shavings. It proved to be quite inefficient because the reaction rate was very slow. The zinc quickly became "passive", inhibiting further gold deposition. Shortly after this first introduction, zinc precipitation was improved by adding a lead salt (usually lead nitrate) to the zinc. This allowed a zinc-lead couple to form on the surface of the shavings, eliminating passivation of zinc surfaces and thereby allowing continued deposition of gold. Further improvements were shortly forthcoming. The first of these involved the use of zinc dust rather than zinc shavings. This provided a much
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