Electrokinetic Leaching - A New Approach to Ensuring Percolation

Wright D J,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
Successful heap leaching depends on three major factors: 1. Chemical conditions appropriate for the dissolution of the valuable metal; 2. Contact between the leach solution and the valuable metal particles; and 3. Movement of the leach solution through, and out of, the heap. Given that appropriate chemical conditions can be provided, and the individual particles have sufficient permeability to allow solute/solvent contact, the problem of getting the solution to and from the particles remains. Non-uniform percolation of solution throughout the heap, caused by the presence of fines, is a common problem which occurs, to some extent, with all heap leachable ore. The conventional solution to this problem is agglomeration, which involves the attachment of fine particles to larger particles, effectively modifying the size distribution by preventing the fine particles from acting on their own. While agglomeration must be considered as an extremely effective technique with virtually no limit to its application from a technical point of view, its application is limited by economic considerations. A new technique has been developed which is not only a low cost alternative to agglomeration, but also has the potential for enabling the application of low cost heap and vat leach techniques to a significantly wider range of ores than current practice would suggest. The new technique, known as Electrokinetic Leaching, utilises electro-osmotic flow to enhance percolation through the heap. This paper describes and presents results of the laboratory testing, pilot heap operation and commercial application of Electrokinetic Leaching of a low grade gold ore and a tailings deposit. Comparative cost analyses between conventional and the alternative processing techniques are presented.
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