Mineralogical Aspects of Heap Leaching

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
In simple terms, heap leaching means the removal in solution of valuable elements from a heap of material, and their recovery from that solution. The heap of material can consist of essentially unprocessed ore, sub-ore, low grade gangue and country rock, tailings from other upgrading processes, or artificial materials such as slags or furnace and flue products. The solvents can be solutions of acids (commonly sulphuric acid because of cost) or of other chemicals such as cyanides. Because of cost factors the solutions are aqueous; because of this, leaching operations may be curtailed in cold-climate areas. The guiding principle must surely be `large volume / low cost'. Since solutions are generally easier to manage than gases, there is a strong incentive for replacing roasting of materials by leaching, eg arsenical gold ores. Where sulphides are present in the material to be leached, these may provide the necessary acid, with or without the aid of bacteria, to dissolve and extract the recoverable metals. The mineralogical aspects of the operation relate to the nature of the `ore' and gangue minerals present in the heap, their textural relationships, and their effect on the process itself.
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