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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Modeling chalcopyrite leaching kinetics Trejo-Gallardo, Jaime


Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) is the most abundant of the copper sulfides and also one of the most refractory for leaching. Several processing routes have been proposed to overcome drawbacks associated with environmental problems related to copper extraction from this mineral. Atmospheric leaching in acidic ferric sulfate is regarded as being particularly attractive over other hydrometallurgical systems. However, the challenge has been to overcome the problem of slow extraction rates due to passivity encountered at high solution potentials in this system. This highlights the need to investigate better operating conditions to optimize copper extraction and prevent the problem of passivation, and to develop suitable modeling tools to assess and diagnose leaching performance. In this work, a dissolution rate expression for chalcopyrite leaching in acidic ferric sulfate media is proposed accounting for effects in the active and passive regions under potentials from 415 to 550 mV (Ag/AgCl). A model of chemical speciation in the bulk solution elucidates the idea of passivation caused by precipitation of ferric species and their consequent adsorption onto the chalcopyrite surface. Electrochemical studies on massive samples of chalcopyrite involving characterization and modeling of the anodic and cathodic half-cell reactions of chalcopyrite leaching together with mixed potential considerations lead to the development of the mathematical expression for dissolution rate. The mathematical model was calibrated with electrochemical parameters and results are in good agreement with real leaching data from batch tests for solution potential regions where passivity is not observed. On the other hand, the passive region was modeled by means of adjusting parameters related to adsorption energies of the passivating species. Results of the model for this region deviate from real data as potential becomes higher probably due to diffusion resistance through a layer composed of ferric complexes.

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