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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Solvent extraction of copper and cyanide from waste cyanide solution Xie, Feng


The potential use of two commercial extractants, LIX 7950, a guanidine derivative, and LIX 7820, a solvent mixture of quaternary amine and nonylphenol, for recovery of copper and cyanide from waste cyanide solution has been investigated. Low equilibrium pH favors copper extraction while a high molar ratio of cyanide to copper depresses the copper loading. It is confirmed that Cu(CN)²⁻₃ is preferentially extracted over Cu(CN) ³⁻₄ and CN- by the extractants. Solvent extraction of the mixture of metal cyano complexes shows a selectivity order as follows: Zn > Ni > Cu > Fe. The presence of SO²⁻₄ or S₂O²⁻₃ shows an insignificant effect on copper extraction while SCN- ions may potentially compete for the available extractant with copper cyanide species and thus depress copper extraction significantly. Both extractants exhibit an affinity sequence as SCN- > CNO- > CN-> S₂O²⁻₃. The selectivity order of different anions with the extractants can be explained by the interrelated factors including anion hydration, charge density, compatibility of the formed complex with the organic phase and the geometry effect. The extraction of Cu(CN)²⁻₃ with LIX 7950 is exothermic with an enthalpy change (ΔH°) of -191 kJ/mol. The copper extraction with LIX 7820 has little change when the temperature is varied from 25 °C to 45 °C. For both extractants, the loaded copper and cyanide can be stripped efficiently by a moderately strong NaOH solution. Further increase in NaOH concentration results in the formation of a third phase. The presence of NaCN can facilitate stripping of the loaded copper and cyanide by favoring the formation of Cu(CN)³⁻₄ in the stripping solution. The important findings suggest a possible solution to the separation of metal cyanide species and free cyanide in the cyanide effluent. Both extractants can be used in a SX circuit for pre-concentrating copper into a small volume of strip solution which can be further treated by electrowinning, AVR, SART or similar processes to recover copper products and cyanide. The free cyanide will remain in the raffinate solution from solvent extraction circuit which allows for the potential recycling of the barren solution to the gold cyanidation process.

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