Metal Production

Milligan, David A. ; Muhtadi, Omar A. ; Thorndycraft, R. Bruce
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 15
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1988
9.1 INTRODUCTION Precious metals in a leach solution are extracted, concentrated, and purified to complete the process begun in the heap and to produce an end product which will provide an economic payback to the mine developer/operator. Several different processes are required to convert the dissolved precious metals into pure metal bars. This chapter discusses the actual production of metal once it has been recovered from the pregnant leach solutions by the zinc cementation (Merrill -Crowe) or carbon adsorption processes. Metal production is generally taken to mean the production of a fairly pure "dore" bar. This chapter also reiterates some information from Chapter 8 in a slightly different context, since the focus of Chapter 8 was a fairly detailed description of the two actual recovery processes, whereas the focus of this chapter is metal production. The sale of an intermediate precious metal product is possible (as opposed to the production of dore bars at the mine site); however, the value of the precious metals is reduced by the various charges and risks associated with precious metal processing. For this reason, most operators choose to produce the most refined metal possible in order to maximize project economics. Precious metals may be extracted from the leach solution by both conventional and unconventional processes. The conventional processes are activated carbon/electrowinning (ACE) and zinc precipitation (ZIP). The unconventional processes are resin ion exchange, solvent extraction, and direct electrowinning. A typical ACE process has two circulating loops. The first loop adsorbs the cyanide-metal complexes from the dilute leach solution onto the activated carbon. A second, separate solution loop removes the cyanide-metal complexes from the activated carbon into a strong solution, the electrowinning electrolyte. Activated carbon is transferred from one fluid loop to the other. The operating cost of the ACE process is directly proportional to the quantity of carbon stripped and thus to the quantity of precious metal produced. A typical ZIP process contains a single circulating loop. The solution is filtered, deaerated, contacted with zinc, and filtered again. The barren leach solution is then returned to the heap. The zinc sludge recovered in the
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