UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The fundamental dissolution kinetics of silver sulfide and mercury sulfide in atmospheric cyanide solutions Joon Won, Lee


The dissolution kinetics of pure silver sulfide (acanthite) and mercury sulfide (metacinnabar) were investigated using rotating disc and stirred reactor methods and the results were explained using the Levich and shrinking-core Parabolic Leach equations, respectively. It was observed that silver sulfide dissolution was limited by cyanide mass-transport and mercury sulfide by parabolic leaching. Silver sulfide leaching was practically unaffected by pH and dissolved oxygen concentrations while mercury sulfide leaching was sensitive to both parameters. Dissolution rates of both species increased linearly with cyanide concentration and activation energies were calculated using the Arrhenius rate equation as 5.15kJ/mol and 5.81kJ/mol, respectively, which indicates mass-transport control. It was also considered that silver sulfide dissolution is supressed by sulfide-saturation in the solution, while mercury dissolution is inhibited by the growth of sulfur-rich product layers on the particles. Kinetic results were compared to extraction experiments conducted on a spent Heap Leach Residue sample from the Yanacocha Mine in Peru which contained acanthite and cinnabar as its primary silver and mercury species. Extraction kinetics of silver from the Leach Residue was analogous to pure silver sulfide’s experimental results, except that extraction rates decreased with pH. Mercury extraction from the residue was insensitive to both cyanide and pH, but was responsive to oxygen concentration. The discrepancies between pure sample investigations and the Leach Residue suggest that unforeseen interactions with other minerals may be affecting the extraction rates of silver and mercury from the Yanacocha Mine.

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