Copper Hydrometallurgy - Evolution And Milestones

Arbiter, Nathaniel ; Fletcher, Archie W. ; Wesely, R. J. ; Zunkel, A. D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 17
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1993
In contrast to pyrometallurgy's six thousand year history in the production of metals, that of hydrometallurgy is of relatively recent origin. The earliest reference to it at all was in the 16th century, with the first applications to copper in the 17th and 18th. In the 19th century, increased demands for pure metal resulted in development of electrolytic refining, and early in this century electrowinning. The rapid growth in wpper production in the present century, paricularly in the United States and Chile, stimulated the development of new technology for leaching, and for the recovery of copper from leach solutions. Solvent extraction has become a major factor during the past quarter century by permitting novel leaching technology which produces dilute or complex solutions. In addition, solvents other than sulphuric acid, and chemical methods for precipitating copper metal are now of increasing interest. These are trends which should grow in importance in the future with the need to process lower grade and more complex materials. The evolution of copper hydrometallurgy is reviewed briefly and key factors in recent major developments are presented with details of specific operations and with trends for the future indicated. The relative importance of copper hydrometallurgy is compared to that of pyrometallurgy in the light of probable changes in ore supplies and character.
Full Article Download:
(646 kb)