Composition and Electrochemistry of Nickel Matte: Implications for Matte Leaching and Refining in Acid Solution

Ho E,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 8
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1996
Analyses of several nickel mattes from around the world show a significant variation in their copper content. Typically, matte contains an alloy, heazlewoodite and a copper sulphide phase. The various commercial methods of processing these mattes are reviewed and some of the fundamental factors which determine the choice of leaching system are discussed. Electrochemical studies on pure heazlewoodite and millerite in sulphate and chloride media are compared which show that nickel sulphides react via a series of nickel deficient sulphides and exhibit passivation as nickel is removed. Differences in the electrochemical behaviour of nickel sulphides in chloride media are attributed to greater crystallinity of sulphur and less formation of'NiS2. The electrochemistry of mattes differs because of the presence of alloy and copper. Copper in the matte modifies the potential for alloy dissolution and the rate of anodic dissolution of nickel. At elevated temperatures, Cu(II) in solution exchanges with NiS and completes the leaching of nickel at relatively low potentials without significant oxidation of sulphur to sulphate. It is concluded that there are fundamental advantages to leaching nickel matte in chloride media using Cu(II)/Clz as the oxidant.
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