Milling of Integrated Sulfide-Oxide Ores

Nesbitt, Mark B. ; Henderson, Thomas D. ; Musgrove, Paul M. Jr.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Introduction History. Vat leaching operations began in October 1953. Since that time, about 4.2 million tpy of oxide ore averaging 0.72% copper have been treated. Economic conditions, improved operating methods, and increased production facilities have allowed the ore grade to be reduced over the years. The average ore grade was 0.84% Cu during the 1950s, 0.68% in the 1960s, and was 0.50%, or below, during the 1970s. By 1961 some 35 million tons of oxide ore had been removed from the mine, exposing the underlying sulfide ore body. A 5,000¬ tpd concentrator was constructed and put into operation to treat the sulfide ore in November 1961.1 The original crushing plants were used for both oxide and sulfide ores, but by adding a third crushing shift, six days per week, the total ore treated was raised from 12,000¬17,000 tpd. Dwindling oxide ore reserves prompted expansion of the concen¬trator to 13,500 tpd in 19672 so that exhaustion of known reserves of both ores would occur at nearly the same time. Again, no additional crushing facilities were added during the expansion. It was anticipated that the treatment rate of oxide ore would be reduced from 12,000 to about 9,000 tpd. Instead, the addition of two crushing shifts per week and improved operating procedures have increased the treatment rate to 26,500 tpd-13,000 tpd to the leaching plant and 13,500 tpd of sulfide ore treated in the concentrator. Geology. The Yerington ore body is a disseminated porphyry copper deposit where a quartz monzonite porphyry intrusive contains the major part of the ore values, with some copper mineralization found in the adjacent granodiorite and other rocks. The geology of the Yerington Mine was aptly described by J. R. Wilson (Mining Congress Journal, June 1963). The ore body is one of few porphyries where geologic conditions were optimum for the formation of an important concentration of oxidized ore with minimum economic effect of secondary enrichment. The principal mineral in the oxidized zone is chrysocolla, which irreg¬ularly occurs dispersed throughout the rock and as narrow seams along fissures. The grade of the ore in the oxidized zone is generally the same as in the primary sulfide below, although some massive concentrations do occur as vein-like fissures and as filling of breccia zones. Cuprite, tenorite, melaconite, malachite, and azurite occur but are not abundant. Lying between the chrysocolla horizon and the primary sulfide is a transition zone whose limits are irregular but seldom with vertical range exceeding 50 ft. Chalcocite, cuprite, melaconite, native copper, and chrysocolla occur superimposed on the primary sulfides. Chalcocite replacement of chalcopyrite, as well as secondary chalcocite, do occur. The primary sulfide minerals are chalcopyrite and pyrite, with minor amounts of bornite and covellite. There are no appreciable gold or silver values, and molybdenite has rarely been noted.
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