Typical Copper Oxide Ore Leaching Operations

Hopkins, Wayne R. ; Henderson, Thomas D. ; Lynch, Arthur
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 20
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Brought on stream in 1975, the 10,000-tpd copper oxide processing plant of Anamax Mining Co. at Twin Buttes, Ariz., is now at design capacity. Based on acid agitation leaching, solvent ion exchange, and electrowinning, the Anamax plant bridges an ore to metal gap by producing mine site copper cathodes from lime-bearing oxidized feed. Until recently, such material was considered submarginal because copper recovery was uneconomic using conventional methods. The new Twin Buttes oxide plant, the largest of its kind in North America, is one stage in the expansion of Anamax, a joint venture owned equally by The Anaconda Co. and Amax Inc. Other phases include an accelerated stripping program in the pit, an expansion of the sulfide concentrator from 32,000 to 40,000 tpd, and construction of a 57 MW diesel generating station for the oxide plant. Once the basic oxide flowsheet had been selected, Anamax awarded a contract to a joint venture of Arthur G. McKee and Co.' (Western Knapp Engineering Div.) and Davy Powergas' (a member of the Davy International group). The contract covered process design, engi¬neering, procurement, and construction. The property, identified by Banner Mining Co. in the 1950s and developed by Anaconda, was put into production in 1965 as an open pit mine equipped with a 32,000-tpd sulfide flotation concentrator. The Twin Buttes mine has since become one of the largest earth¬moving operations in the world, excavating some 10 tons of waste per ton of ore. At the original sulfide mill feed rate, the mining fleet moved 375,000 tpd of material (225,000 tpd alluvium and 150,000 tpd of rock). The most significant copper mineral in the ore body is chalcopyrite, which is scattered in pockets of weak mineralization. Cap oxidation has progressed to depths of several hundred feet, principally as chryso¬colla. Present estimates place minable reserves at 347 million tons of sulfide ore grading 0.6% copper and 55 million tons of oxide ore grading 0.9% recoverable copper from 1.25% total copper. The nonre¬coverable fraction is composed of native copper and insoluble copper oxides and sulfides. The oxide ore has been partially stripped, and 25 million tons having a copper content greater than 0.6% have been stockpiled. The stripping of oxide ore to expose sulfides will continue for several years. The copper oxide studies launched by Banner Mining in the 1950s were continued by Anaconda. Process routes investigated included: acid leaching; cyanide leaching; segregation roasting; chlorination, oxidation, and reduction; flotation in combination with leaching; cal¬cite flotation plus leaching; copper oxide flotation; and sulfidization flotation. By late 1968 test work favored a low temperature roast followed by an ammonia-ammonium carbonate leach of the ore. During this period, acid leaching had been discounted because of excessive con¬sumption of expensive acid by the high limestone ore matrix. Restric¬tive SO2 emission controls in 1971 suggested an increase in acid production and availability at a lower cost. Research then switched to acid leaching, resulting in development of the present flowsheet. Mechanically agitated leaching in a cascaded series of tanks was selected in preference to vat leaching after piloting a stirred-tank system. Preliminary testing of vat leaching indicated that inter-vat solution clarification problems could be caused by gas evolution from leaching of high limestone ore. Lack of research time for resolution of this problem, plus success of the pilot agitation system, dictated the final flowsheet selection. In 1973 Anamax decided to proceed with agitation acid leaching to produce liquor for a solvent ion exchange (SIX) and electrowinning (EW) installation. At that time, such systems were proving their eco¬nomic viability, and they allowed direct recovery of high quality cath odes while bypassing the smelting and refining of lower grade cement copper precipitates. The Anamax oxide plant processes a grade of about 1% recovera¬ble copper from stockpiled sources and new mine production. Unit operations include size reduction, agitation leaching, countercurrent decantation washing of residue, pH adjustment of solution, clarifica¬tion, solvent ion exchange, and electrowinning of copper, with a mini¬mum of environmental impact. The feed to the primary crushers is composed of: 1) -10-in. stockpiled oxide ore, which has passed through the mine crusher and has been grade-segregated to allow blending for a consistent feed material. 2) -4-ft ROM oxide ore stockpiled in the early mining operation. 3) -10-in. ore currently being mined. Ore is delivered in 100-ton mine trucks to a dump pocket, where an apron feeder transfers the ore to an inclined 6-in. fixed grizzly. The grizzly oversize passes through a 48 x 60-in. primary jaw crusher, where it is reduced to -6 in. The fixed grizzly undersize and the crusher product are conveyed to a 4-in. vibrating grizzly. Oversize from this grizzly reports to a 7-ft Standard cone crusher, where it is reduced to -1 in. The crusher product and the vibrating grizzly undersize are conveyed to two 8 x 20-ft double-deck vibrating screens that operate in closed circuit with two 7-ft short head cone crushers. Screen undersize (-1/2 in.) is delivered to a covered conical fine ore stockpile with a designed live capacity of 15,000 st. Beneath the stockpile are ten Pioche belt feeders feeding two conveyor belts that supply the milling circuits. Each group of five feeders has two variable speed and three fixed speed drives. Grinding to 95% -48 mesh is done in two parallel lines, each consisting of an 111/1 x 18S -ft rod mill and a 12' x 30-ft ball mill in open circuit. Water is added to maintain a pulp density of 72% solids in the mills. Further water additions are made to the ball mill discharge sumps to create a 60% solids slurry for transfer to the leaching reactors. The nominal grinding rate is 440 tph solids. A splitter box on the product from the mills separates the incoming slurry into two streams, one for the leaching reactors and the other for the pH adjustment reactors. This split is determined by the lime content of the feed material and the pH of solution entering the pH adjustment reactors. Five 30-ft diam by 31-ft high mechanically agitated, rubber-lined leach tanks are arranged in cascade, with gravity transfer from one to another by enclosed launders. Concentrated sulfuric acid (93.2%) from storage is added to the pulp principally at the first leach tank, and the reacted slurry leaving the cascade after a 5-hr residence time at 50% solids is pumped to countercurrent decantation (CCD) wash thickeners.' At this point, most of the soluble copper has been leached from the ore. Up to 250 lb of sulfuric acid is consumed per ton of ore, the acid being supplied in tank cars from a nearby smelter. Leached slurry at 50% solids is washed countercurrently with return raffinate from the SIX plant in a series of four Doff-Oliver center caisson, 400-ft diam thickeners. Solids advance from thickeners No. I through No. 4 to the tailings dam. SIX raffinate advances from thickener No. 4 to thickener No. l, where a pregnant solution overflows to pH adjustment. To optimize solvent extraction, the pH of the pregnant solution from CCD thickener No. I is adjusted from 1.5 to 2.5 by adding unreacted ground slurry (split from the grinding circuit) to the preg¬nant overflow of No. I CCD thickener. The resulting slurry is retained for 45 min in three mechanically agitated leach tanks. CO, generated during leach and pH adjustment is ducted to a demister, where entrained acid droplets are removed. The cleaned CO, and the No. 4 CCD underflow are the only effluents from the plant. The underflow of No. 4 thickener mixes with tailings from the sulfide concentrator and is neutralized. Slurry exits the pH adjustment vessels at about 10% solids and
Full Article Download:
(1457 kb)