Startup and operation of the Kidd Creek zinc sulfide pressure leaching plant

Johnston, B. H. ; Doyle, B. N.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Introduction In 1983-84 Kidd Creek Mines Ltd. in Timmins, Ontario, started up the second commercial zinc pressure leaching plant based on the Sherritt Gordon Mines Ltd. direct pressure leach process. The first plant using this process was that of Cominco Ltd. at Trail, B.C. (Parker, 1981; Martin and Jankola, 1985). The Kidd Creek plant was constructed to take advantage of the extra capacity that the existing purification, cell house, and casting sections had in comparison to the roasters and acid plant. In addition, pressure leaching offered flexibility in other areas such as treatment of low grade concentrates. The process design package and the detailed design of the autoclave system was carried out by Sherritt. The detailed design for the rest of the plant was done by Cambrian Engineering Ltd. under the direction of Kidd Creek. The construction and commissioning of the plant has been described earlier (Johnston, 1983). This paper describes, briefly, the application of the direct pressure leaching process for zinc concentrates and the integration of the pressure leaching plant into the main zinc plant at Timmins. It discusses some of the startup problems and changes made to the plant. The damage following a fire inside the autoclave is also described. The subsequent repair and recommissioning of the autoclave has enabled Kidd Creek to demonstrate the originally sought advantages of pressure leaching and to take advantage of their extra cell house and casting capacity to produce more zinc. Process principles The development of the direct pressure sulphuric acid leach of zinc sulphide concentrate at temperatures above the melting point of sulphur and at elevated oxygen pressure has been described in detail in a number of papers (Martin and Jankola, 1985; Johnston, 1983; Veltman and Bolton, 1980; Kawulka et al., 1975; Veltman et al., 1977). The most significant aspect of the process is that sulphidic sulphur is converted to elemental sulphur in reactions that can be simply described as follows. ZnS + H2SO4 + 1/2 O2 ZnSO4 + S° + H2O (1) FeS + H2SO4 + 1/2 O2 FeSO4 + S° + H2O (2) The rates of these reactions increase with temperature. However, at temperatures above the melting point of sulphur, 12°C, the presence of a surface active agent is necessary to prevent the occlusion of the sulphide particles by elemental sulphur and the consequent termination of the leach. The zinc that is dissolved according to reaction (1), after purification of the zinc sulphate solution, is recovered by electrowinning. The iron that is put into solution according to reaction (2) is further oxidized to the ferric state and subsequently, as the acidity decreases, precipitates as hematite or as complex basic sulphates. MINERALS AND METALLURGICAL PROCESSING Examples of this are shown below. 2FeSO4 + H2SO4 +1/2O2 - Fe2(SO4)3 + H2O (3) Fe2(SO4)3 + 6H2O - Fe2O3.3H2O + 3H2SO4 (4) 3Fe2(SO4)3 + 14H2O - 2(H3O)Fe3(SO4)2(OH)6 + 5H2SO4 (5) (hydronium jarosite) The conventional zinc process involves concentrate roasting to produce zinc oxide and sulphur dioxide. The zinc oxide is leached in spent electrolyte and the sulphur dioxide is converted to sulphuric acid. The pressure leaching process can, therefore, be used to replace conventional concentrate roasting, sulphuric acid manufacture, and atmospheric leaching with one unit operation. Integration of pressure leaching into the Kidd Creek flowsheet A block flowsheet of the Kidd Creek zinc plant, with the new pressure leach plant integrated, is shown in Fig. 1. The original plant, which was constructed in 1972, is based on standard electrolytic zinc plant technology. Concentrates are dead roasted to remove sulphur. Sulphur dioxide is treated to produce sulphuric acid. Calcine is leached in two stages using cell-house electrolyte. Iron is precipitated as jarosite and solutions are purified to remove copper, cobalt, nickel, and cadmium to provide feed for a partially mechanized cell house. Zinc is plated from solution, and the resulting cathode is melted, cast, and sold (Johnston, 1983). The integration of the pressure leaching plant into the main zinc plant is relatively simple. As shown in Fig. 1, a fraction of the zinc concentrate and spent electrolyte are fed to the pressure leach autoclave, while part of the calcine from the roaster is used as a neutralizing agent in the oxidation step along with. the jarosite leach solution. The main exit stream from the pressure leaching plant is the slurry discharged from the oxidation step, consisting of neutral zinc sulphate solution, unreacted calcine, and precipitated iron oxides. This slurry is transferred to the neutral leach step in the main zinc plant. The leach residue from the pressure leaching step, consisting of basic iron sulphate and elemental sulphur, is washed and impounded along with the jarosite residue produced in the main plant.
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