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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mercury stabilization using thiosulfate and thioselenate Ullah, Mohammad Barkat


Mercury is commonly present with gold in nature. As a result it has a tendency to follow gold through the cyanide recovery circuit and ends up in the electro-winning cell as elemental mercury. The laws on the sale and international transport of this mercury are changing. Ultimately, it appears that it will be necessary to stabilize and dispose in a stable form. Mercury sulfide (HgS) and mercury selenide (HgSe) have significantly lower solubilities. The concept of using a thiosulfate dissolution/precipitation method to stabilize mercury as mercury sulfide has been investigated. Comparing the solubilities of mercury sulfide and mercury selenide, mercury selenide is much less soluble. For this reason, the second idea in this thesis is to use sodium thioselenate as a source of selenium in mercury solution to produce mercury selenide. To pursue this project, mercury analysis, mercury leaching and mercury precipitation tests were performed at different temperatures and solution conditions. The resulting solutions were analyzed by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) and the solid precipitates were analyzed by X-ray Diffraction. The EDTA titration method for mercury analysis is effective for a simple mercury nitrate solution. If sodium thiosulfate was added in the solution, thiosulfate interfered with the solution and the titration method was not effective. As a result the AAS method was adopted. Red mercury sulfide can be precipitated by simple aging of mercury thiosulfate solution. Parameters such as temperature, pH and thiosulfate concentration have an effect on the rate and extent of mercury sulfide precipitation. With an increase of temperature, thiosulfate concentration and at lower pH, the mercury precipitation rate increases. However at very high temperature such as 70ºC and 80ºC mercury precipitates as a mixture of red and black mercury sulfide. Thioselenate synthesis was attempted from a mixture of sodium sulfite and selenium powder. The reaction between sulfite and elemental selenium was too slow to be useful. The environmental stability of the mercury sulfide precipitates produced from thiosulfate solutions was investigated. Solid Waste Disposal Characterization (SWDC) tests were done to check the precipitation limit for land disposal and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

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