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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The alkaline sodium sulphide leaching of enargite Parada Torres, Fernando Andrés


Leaching of enargite samples containing approximately 12 % As, 0.5 % Sb and 38 % Cu was studied in alkaline sodium sulphide solutions. Samples were leached in the presence of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphide, which is expected to hydrolyse and form sodium hydrosulphide. Kinetic parameters studied included temperature, particle size, reagent concentration and stoichiometry in high pulp density tests. Leaching behaviour of arsenic and antimony was very similar; it was enhanced as temperature and reagent dosage was increased and/or particle size decreased. Copper, iron, zinc, and silver were not extracted during the leaching procedure. Through chemical analysis, X-Ray Diffraction and Scanning Electron Microscopy leach solutions and residues were characterised. Arsenic and antimony were efficiently removed, leaving copper-sulphur compounds such as digenite, bornite and sodium copper sulphide (NaCu₅S₃). Some of the leaching results differ from those found in the literature, especially in regards to the nature of the solid residue and the leaching reaction given. Removal of arsenic from solution was analysed by acidification and crystallization. Acidification removed arsenic and antimony from solution to produce a mixture of oxides and sulphides; however, sulphide was removed from solution most likely as hydrogen sulphide, which would need to be scrubbed in a sodium hydroxide solution. Finally acid consumptions over arsenic plus antimony ratios were too large for a practical application. Crystallization on the other hand is a simpler alternative. The main requirement is to have high concentrations of arsenic and antimony in solution. In this case part of the arsenic and antimony would be recirculated to the leaching stage. Other aspects included behaviour of chalcopyrite and pyrite in alkaline solutions and the possibility of producing sulphide ions in situ. Unfortunately no considerable amounts of aqueous sulphide were produced. Also, the behaviour of arsenic and antimony (III) in sodium sulphide alkaline solutions was analysed using arsenic and antimony trioxide. These results are in an early phase of study and could be a relevant topic for further research. In both cases a black precipitate formed containing elemental antimony and oxides. However, no crystallization of thio-compounds seemed to have occurred.

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