UBC Theses and Dissertations
Studies on the curing and leaching kinetics of mixed copper ores Barriga Vilca, Abrahan
Heap leaching is a metal extraction process from low grade ores where crushed ore is stacked on an impermeable pad and irrigated from the top with a solution of chemical reagents. An enriched solution containing the targeted metal is collected at the bottom. This technique involves complex chemical/electrochemical reactions and transport processes. Among the main features of this method of extraction include low capital and operative cost, modularity, and relatively high inventory of solutions. The need to optimize a heap operation has led to research studies in order to understand and interpret the chemistry and transport involved in a heap leach. These scientific investigations are focused on mathematical expressions of the reactions and transport phenomena of the minerals and reagents from the particle scale to the bulk scale. However, it was envisaged that pretreatment of these minerals are not accounted for in existing mathematical models of heap leaching. Sulfuric acid curing is a pretreatment to accelerate the extraction kinetics of copper ores and is widely used in copper operations. The curing process involves the addition of a highly concentrated sulfuric acid to the copper ore during agglomeration. Then, chemical reactions already begin prior to irrigation of the heap, transforming the initial copper species into new copper species which are easier to solubilize once the leach solution is provided to top of the heap. The present study aims to provide a means for the systematic integration of the curing pretreatment and the subsequent leaching process. The numerical implementation of the model is done using the Matlab programming language. The focus of this curing and leaching model is to represent the leaching kinetics of each mineral species, which involves solution of a system of ordinary differential equations. The numerical parameters of the proposed curing and leaching kinetic model were found from a set of laboratory experiments. Additionally, novel methods for determining the optimum agglomeration moisture, the optimum sulfuric acid dose for acid curing, and the relevant solute transport parameters were employed. The resulting model can be applied for design, scale-up, and optimization of a new or existing commercial heap leach operation.
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