Nickel and Cobalt

MacKiw, V. N. ; Boldt, J. R. ; Dufour, M. F. ; Evans, D. J. I. ; Halter, D. E. ; Honkasalo, J. ; Kleemann, C. M. ; MacLellan, J. A. ; Maney, E. J. ; Meddings, B.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 58
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
The technology employed in the processing of nickel- and cobalt¬bearing ores is a continually developing process for utilizing the natu¬ral resources available at a given time. Most of the nickel-bearing ores of commercial importance fall under the category of sulfide or lateritic ores. While the occurrences of both types of ore have been known for over a century, until 1960 sulfide ores largely from Cana¬dian mines have constituted the chief source of production for com¬mercial nickel in the Free World. Sulfide ores are readily amenable to some physical means of concentration, but the lateritic ores are not readily concentrated, and to compete economically with the sulfide ores only the high-grade garnierite ores (a type of lateritic ore) found in New Caledonia were processed to any great extent up to the time of World War II. Around 1960, a gradual shift in emphasis towards latetitic ores as a commercial source of nickel became evident. See Fig. 1. New discoveries of sulfide ores, usually located underground, had not kept pace with the steadily increasing demand for nickel. The lateritic ores, found near the surface of the earth, could be readily surveyed and mined. Lower cost processes were being developed for the extrac¬tion of nickel from lateritic ores and for a time it appeared that, based on pre-OPEC economics, the lower grade lateritic ores-down to 1.2% nickel-could satisfy an increasing share of the world demand for nickel. The sharp increase in the price of crude oil in the 1970s, however, slapped an economic damper on the lateritic ores. Processes for treat¬ing lateritic ores consume large amounts of energy; as the nickel industry entered its deep recessionary period in 1981-83, nickel pro¬duction from lateritic ores became less and less profitable than from sulfide ores. At the same time, new sulfide ores were discovered and brought into production, notably in Australia and South Africa. The chapters in Section 17 were prepared in 1973. Recent improvements in mineral dressing techniques since then include Inco's pyrrhotite separation process which can remove additional pyrrhotite from nickel concentrates, resulting in reduced sulfur dioxide emission from the Sudbury smelter, by some 25%. The chapters in this section dealing with nickel are grouped in line with the two broad categories of nickel ores. Starting with the description of nickel and cobalt ores in Chapter 2, Chapter 3 deals with the processing of sulfide ores, and Chapter 4 deals largely with lateritic ores. The intermediate steps to produce a suitable feed for extraction plants and refineries are similar in principle within the same categories, although dissimilar between sulfide and lateritic ores. Thus Inco in Canada employs flotation and so does Western Mining Corp. in Australia, although Inco's plants were started before World War II, and that of Western Mining only recently in the late 1960s. Treatment subsequent to the ore dressing step, however, shows some interesting differences. The earlier parts deal mostly with established and conventional practices, leaning heavily on pyrometallurgy in both
Full Article Download:
(2941 kb)