Recovery of free-gold particles using water-liquid carbon dioxide bi phase separations

Shi, C. ; Beckman, E. J. ; Enick, R. M. ; Li, J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
A novel liquid-liquid separation for the recovery of free or liberated gold from mixtures of fine particles was evaluated. Two inexpensive and environmentally benign fluids were selected for the study, water and carbon dioxide. The separation, which is conducted at 295 K and at the vapor pressure of carbon dioxide (6.0 MPa), is based on differences in wettability between the precious metals and other minerals. Contact-angle results indicated that, in the presence of water and liquid CO2, gold is slightly hydrophobic. The addition of CO2-soluble fluoroalkyl thiols or f uoroetherthiols increased the hydrophobicity of gold exposed to water and CO2 to a greater extent than alkylthiols. Minerals, including quartz, pyrite and magnetite, were hydrophilic. During the separation, an aqueous slurry of fine mineral and gold particles was mixed with liquid carbon dioxide. Pure gold particles (-325 mesh) were found to agglomerate at the H2O-CO2 interface. The minerals tended to remain in the aqueous phase. Despite these promising preliminary results, very poor gold recoveries were obtained when applying the procedure to an Australian gravity concentrate. This was attributed to the native gold particles in the concentrate being either too large, agglomerated in slimes or coated with minerals. Although this particular application was unsuccessful, this water-CO2 biphase technique may be applicable for other separations that require the removal of very fine, hydrophobic particles from an aqueous slurry.
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