Processing of Concentrates and Development Trends

Moore, Donald C. ; Musgrove, Paul M. Jr.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Conventional Smelting Practice Conventional copper smelting practice varies from smelter to smel¬ter, but generally consists of some or all of the following unit processes: roasting, smelting, converting, and fire refining. Roasting. Copper sulfide concentrates can be smelted directly or after an initial roasting step. Roasting is used in some smelters because roasting prior to smelting increases smelting capacity, less energy is required to melt hot roaster calcines than wet sulfide concen¬trates, roaster off gases are high in Sot concentration, 5-15% SO2, and some volatile impurities are removed from the concentrate prior to smelting. However, many smelters do not use roasters, because the problems associated with handling hot dry calcines outweigh the advantages mentioned. Concentrate roasting is performed in multiple hearth or fluid bed roasters. If the moisture is low, roasting can be performed autogenously, usually at 500-600°C. High roasting temperatures are avoided because excess oxidation of the iron compounds may lead to magnetite formation. Magnetite is detrimental to reverb operation because mag¬netite can combine with refractory minerals to form a highly viscous slag. This slag prohibits efficient matte-slag separation and leads to excessive copper losses. Also, magnetite can settle through the matte layer, deposit on the furnace bottom, and consequently reduce furnace capacity. Roasting is carried out only on sulfide concentrates prior to smelt¬ing in reverb or electric furnaces. For smelting processes, such as the flash and continuous that rely on the exothermic heat of oxidation of the sulfur minerals, roasting is not practiced. Reverberatory Smelting. The predominate copper smelting fur¬nace for the past 50 years has been the reverb. These furnaces are typically 100-120 ft long, 30-35 ft wide, and 12-15 ft high. A typical furnace layout is shown in Fig. 2. Refractory brick linings cover all internal surfaces of the furnace. Originally the flame was directed to reverberate or reflect off the furnace ceiling and melt the feed material. Current practice is to direct the flame down the furnace length to melt the concentrate. A method of charging the concentrates or calcines, generally along the side walls to minimize refractory erosion, is incorporated in the furnace design. The copper concentrates, calcines, and fluxes charged into the reverb undergo a series of complicated reactions as the temperature of the mixture increases. The reaction of the iron and copper sulfides with the oxygen in the furnace produces a molten Cu25-FeS mixture called matte. Copper smelting metallurgy is based on the fact that sulfur has a greater affinity for copper than for iron and most other common metals. Therefore, in a system containing copper, the copper will preferentially remain as a sulfide compound until all of the other metals have been oxidized. The oxidized metals combine with silica to form a silicate slag that floats on the matte and is removed from the system. Reverberatory furnace smelting chemistry can be approximated by the following chemical equations: FeS2 + O2 - FeS+ SO2 (1) The formation of FeS ensures that any copper present other than as sulfides will be reduced by the relationship: CuO2 + 2FeS + O2 - CuS + 2FeO+SO2 (2) or 2Cu +FeS - Cu2S + Fe (3) As the molten charge travels down the furnace, continued oxida¬tion of the iron minerals and sulfurization of the copper minerals occurs. When all of the copper has been converted to sulfides, the iron sulfides can then be further oxidized as: FeS + (3)2 O2 FeO + SiO2 (4) The FeO reacts with the silica added as flux in the furnace charge. A simplified equation is: FeO + SiO2 -FeO SiO2 (5) The iron silicate slag formed is skimmed from the surface at the end opposite the burners. The copper content of reverb slag is usually less than 0.6% Cu and is discarded. Matte is removed along the side wall and is taken to the converter for oxidation of the remaining sulfur and iron. The main objectives in reverberatory smelting are to produce a molten Cu2S-FeS matte containing 30-60% Cu and a throwaway slag. Production of matte permits complete conversion of all copper minerals into copper sulfides, which can migrate because of specific gravity differences, through the lighter slag layer. Also, the molten matte droplets collect the noble metals, gold and silver, as the matte settles in the furnace. The large settling area of the furnace provides enough separation time to produce a low grade slag, which can be discarded without further processing. High heat losses are associated with reverberatory smelting be¬cause of the large volume of gases sweeping through the furnace. Therefore, an outside source of heat is required to keep the smelting reaction going. Natural gas, fuel oil, or pulverized coal are used as this heat source.
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