A New Leaching Technique for Off-Grade Western Phosphate Ores
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 1993
The U.S. Bureau of Mines has investigated leaching of off-grade western United States phosphate deposits using sulfuric acid (H2SO4) in the presence of methanol. A combination of ore grinding followed by sulfuric acid in methanol leaching extracted over 80 pct of the phosphate. This leaching technique significantly limited the dissolution of iron, aluminum, and magnesium impurities and produced a phosphoric acid that was well within the desired limits for these impurities. The dissolution rate of phosphate rock in the sulfuric acid methanol system was significantly slower than the conventional aqueous sulfuric acid dissolution. Initially dissolution of the phosphate particle was controlled by the amount of surface area available to the sulfuric acid reactant. After about an hour of leaching, phosphate dissolution was slowed almost to a stop, limited by the rate of ion diffusion through the calcium sulfate barrier layer surrounding the unreacted phosphate particle. Consequently, the ore was ground below 38-pm to increase the particle surface area available and improve the overall dissolution kinetics and extraction. In addition, the sulfuric acid was slowly metered into the reactor to prevent any excess heat from the mixing of acid with the methanol from simulating the formation of methyl sulfates. The formation of methyl sulfate ultimately lowered the overall phosphate extraction by exhausting the supply of available sulfate ions for the dissolution reaction. Subsequent evaporation of the methanol from the product acid decomposed the methyl sulfates leaving undesirable sulfate ions in the product acid. Slow acid addition to the reactor provided high phosphate extraction and limited the amount of sulfate in the final product acid.