Pressure Acid Leaching of Australian Nickel/Cobalt Laterites

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1996
Until recently, nickel laterite projects have been largely ignored, due to their supposedly higher treatment costs compared with sulphides, and to their perceived processing difficulties. A number of laterite projects in the 1970s were abandoned because of high capital and operating costs, while others experienced severe technical difficulties. Conventional wisdom had it that laterites would not be exploited until most of the sulphide orebodies had been depleted. Why then, have Australian mining and exploration companies started a resurgence of interest in the treatment of nickel laterites? It all began with the Bulong project, which has been under study since 1987, while more recently two further projects, Murrin Murrin and Cawse, have been initiated and are being fast-tracked to take advantage of the current high nickel and cobalt prices. A further project in NSW, Syerston, has also been investigated at bench-scale, but no further development has yet been announced. All these projects have the following advantages: 1. Good location near a major mining centre and,reasonably close to power, water, roads, accommodation and a developed service industry. 2. Straightforward, low cost mining. 3. Low cost of acid or sulphur. 4. Good to very good cobalt credits. In addition, there have been significant technological developments in the design and operation of high pressure autoclaves and high rate thickeners, as well as solvent extraction and electrowinning technology. This has helped to decrease capital costs and technical risks, and has allowed the development of alternative flowsheets to the existing laterite operations (Taylor, 1996).
Full Article Download:
(340 kb)