UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mercury stabilization using thiosulfate or selenosulfate Zhou, Zizheng


Mercury is often found associated with gold and silver minerals in ore bodies. It is recovered as liquid elemental mercury in several stages including carbon adsorption, carbon elution, electrowinning and retorting. Thus a great amount of mercury is produced as a by-product in gold mines. The Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 prohibits conveying, selling and distributing elemental mercury by federal agencies in United States. It also bans the export of elemental mercury starting January 1, 2013. As a result, a long-term mercury management plan is required by gold mining companies that generate liquid mercury as a by-product. This thesis will develop a process to effectively convert elemental mercury into much more stable mercury sulfide and mercury selenide for safe disposal. The process consists of 1) extraction of elemental mercury into solution to form aqueous mercury (II) and 2) mercury precipitation as mercury sulfide or mercury selenide. Elemental mercury can be effectively extracted by using hypochlorite solution in acidic environment to form aqueous mercury (II) chloride. The effect of different parameters on the extent and rate of mercury extraction were studied, such as pH, temperature, stirring speed and hypochlorite concentration. Results show that near complete extraction can be achieved within 8 hours by using excess sodium hypochlorite at pH 4 with a fast stirring speed of 1000RPM. Mercury precipitation was achieved by using thiosulfate and selenosulfate solution. In thiosulfate precipitation, cinnabar, metacinnabar or a mixture of both can be obtained depending on the experimental conditions. Elevated temperatures, acidic environment and high reagent concentrations favour the precipitation reaction. Complete mercury removal can be achieved within 4 hours. However, it appears that the less stable metacinnabar tends to form when the precipitation rate increases. Selenosulfate solution can be produced by dissolving elemental selenium in sulfite solution at elevated temperature. Precipitation of mercury selenide using selenosulfate reagent was found to be very effective. The precipitation rate proved to be extremely fast, and the formed precipitates have been confirmed to be tiemannite (HgSe) in all experiments. Finally, Solid Waste Disposal Characterization (SWDC) experiments were conducted to examine the mobility of the formed mercury sulfide and mercury selenide. The results show that none of the formed precipitates exceed the Ultimate Treatment Standard (UTS) limit.

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