|Title of Invention||
METHOD FOR RECOVERING COPPER FROM A COPPER SULPHIDE ORE
|Abstract||The invention relates to a method whereby copper is recovered from a copper sulphide ore containing pyrite. According to the method the ore is ground and leached into a solution containing sulphuric acid in atmospheric conditions by means of trivalent copper. As the copper sulphide leaches out, the trivalent iron is reduced to divalent and is oxidised back to trivalent by means of oxygen during leaching. Leaching is carried out in a closed reactor, where the undissolved gas rising from the solution in the upper section of the reactor is circulated back into the suspension of solution, solids and gas. Leaching is performed in the presence of both divalent and trivalent iron and preferably with the dissolved copper acting as a catalyst to promote leaching. The conditions are adjusted to be such that the pyrite of the ore essentially does not dissolve.|
|Full Text||METHOD FOR RECOVERING COPPER FROM A COPPER SULPHIDE
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to a method whereby copper is recovered from a
copper sulphide ore that containing pyrite. According to the method the ore is
ground finely and leached into a solution containing sulphuric acid in
atmospheric conditions by means of trivalent copper. As the copper sulphide
leaches out, the trivalent iron is reduced to divalent and is oxidised back to
trivalent by means of oxygen during leaching. Leaching is carried out in a
closed reactor, where the undissolved gas rising from the solution in the
upper section of the reactor is circulated back into the suspension of solution,
solids and gas. Leaching is performed in the presence of both divalent and
trivalent iron and preferably with the dissolved copper acting as a catalyst to
promote leaching. The conditions are adjusted to be such that the pyrite
essentially does not dissolve.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
A significant portion of ores that contain copper sulphide is chalcopyritic ore,
CuFeS2, of which the most common processing method after enrichment is
pyrometallurgical smelting - anode casting - electrolytic purification.
Nowadays however there is also interest in the hydrometallurgical
processing of copper sulphide ores, whereby the first treatment stage itself is
also commonly the formation of a flotation concentrate, after which usually at
least one concentrate leaching stage takes place in autoclave conditions.
The other primary occurrence of copper sulphide is chalcocite, Cu2S, which
is processed principally in the same way as chalcopyrite. Chalcopyrite and
chalcocite generally occur in the same ore and often the amount of
chalcopyrite is predominant.
The leaching of minerals containing chalcopyrite and/or chalcocite with the
aid of trivalent iron in a solution containing sulphuric acid is described e.g. in
WO publications 2005/042790 and 2005/005672. In both cases the oxidation
of the divalent iron formed in leaching to trivalent is performed in autoclave
conditions, although at least part of the concentrate leaching could be
performed in atmospheric conditions. The copper sulphate solution formed in
leaching is routed to conventional copper recovery.
A method for the hydrometallurgical recovery of copper from chalcopyrite
and other sulphides is described in US patent publication 4,115,221. In this
method the sulphide mineral is ground to a fineness where the particle size is
a maximum of one micrometre. The sulphidic solids are leached into an
acidic solution, in which the amount of ferric ions is stochiometrically
sufficient to oxidise the copper contained in the copper sulphide material.
Part of the iron is removed from the copper sulphate solution by precipitating
the ferrous sulphate from it, after which the solution is routed to copper
electrolysis. The solution exiting electrolysis, which is dilute in relation to
copper, is routed to a separate stage, in which the ferrous iron still in solution
is oxidised into trivalent before routing the solution back to sulphide leaching.
In the method, the leaching and fomriation of trivalent iron used in leaching
take place in different stages.
EP patent 815,270 describes a method for leaching sulphidic minerals,
where the mineral also contains iron, According to the method, the mineral is
ground to a fineness where the P80 is 20 microns or less. Leaching takes
place by means of ferric iron and sulphuric acid in an open reactor and
oxygen is fed into the reactor to oxidise the ferrous iron formed in sulphide
leaching back into ferric iron. All the examples in the publication describe the
treatment of flotation concentrate. The copper sulphate solution formed in
leaching is routed to conventional extraction and electrowinning.
The drawback of the two last atmospheric methods described above is
considered to be the fact that for leaching to succeed, the mineral has to be
ground very fine, which consumes energy and thus raises grinding costs. In
addition, it can be said of the latter method that with oxidation in an open
reactor an excess of oxygen has to be fed in, because it cannot all be taken
back into circulation.
PURPOSE OF THE INVENTION
The purpose of the invention is to eliminate the disadvantages of the
methods presented above. A copper sulphide-bearing ore containing pyrite is
fed to leaching in considerably coarser form than that described above,
thereby saving grinding costs. The leaching of ore and oxidation of ferrous
iron into ferric iron takes place with the aid of oxygen in the same stage in
closed reactors in atmospheric conditions, so that the oxygen efficiency is
made higher than in an open reactor. An acidic iron-containing solution is
used for ore leaching, which in addition to ferrous and ferric iron also
includes copper, which acts as a catalyst to promote leaching.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The essential features of the invention will be made apparent in the attached
The invention relates to a method for leaching copper from a copper sulphide
ore containing pyrite, whereby finely ground ore is leached into a solution
containing sulphuric acid and iron in a single stage. The grain size of the ore
is of the order of 95 -100% below 150 m. Oxygen is fed into the leaching
stage and leaching is performed in atmospheric conditions with a solution
having an iron concentration of around 20-50 g/l, of which the amount of
ferric iron is at least 10 g/l and the amount of copper at the start of leaching
is 8-12 g/l.
LIST OF DRAWINGS
A flow chart of the method accordant with the invention is shown in Figure 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
The method accordant with the invention is particularly suitable for the
leaching of chalcocite-type copper sulphlde-pyrite ore, although of course it
can also be adapted for the leaching of other sulphide ores. The method is
described below with reference to Figure 1. The purpose in the method is to
leach sulphide ore in particular without enrichment pre-treatment. The
conditions of leaching stage 1 are adjusted to be such that as small a part as
possible of the pyrite contained in the ore will dissolve. The ore is ground for
leaching to a grain size of 95 -100 % below 150 micrometres and preferably
to a size of around 50-150 m so that it contains as little as possible of the
finer fractions. The ground ore is fed into the first leaching reactor. The
number of reactors in series in the leaching stage can vary according to
need, but both ore leaching and the oxidation of ferrous iron into ferric iron
takes place during the same stage.
The following reactions typically occur in the leaching of copper sulphide ore:
Cu2S + 2Fe2(SO4)3 → 2 CuSO4+S + 4 FeSO4 (1)
CuS + Fe2(SO4)3 → CuSO4+S + 2 FeSO4 (2)
S + 3 Fe2(SO4)3 + H2O → 6 FeSO4 + 4 H2SO4 (3)
2FeSO4+ H2SO4 + 1/2 O2 → Fe2(SO4)3 + H2O (4)
FeS2 + H2O + 31/2 O2 → FeSO4 + H2SO4 (5)
A solution is used for leaching copper sulphide ore with a sulphuric acid
concentration of at least 20 g/l, preferably 70 - 95 g/l. The total iron in
solution is 20 - 70 g/l, where the amount of trivalent iron is at least 10 g/l, the
Fe3/Fe2+ ratio is preferably adjusted to the region of 0.5 - 1.2 and the
amount of dissolved copper around 8-12 g/l at the start of leaching.
Preferably the solution is extraction stage raffinate, from which the majority of
the copper has been removed. When the solution used in leaching is the kind
described above, it has been found that reactions 1, 2 and 4 proceed almost
one hundred per cent, but reaction 3 only around 5% and reaction 5
(dissolving of pyrite) around 3%. As can be seen from the reactions above,
sulphuric acid is only generated in reactions 3 and 5 and all the rest of the
sulphur is recovered as elemental sulphur.
When copper is present in the solution used for ore leaching, it aids the
regulation of the oxidation-reduction potential of the leaching. Obviously, the
copper concentration of the solution increases as the leaching proceeds,
because the purpose is to leach the copper in the ore, but generally in
leaching accordant with the prior art the copper concentration of the raffinate
is low, in the region of less than 2 g/l.
The leaching potential is adjusted to be 450 - 550 mV vs. Ag/AgCI electrode
at the end of leaching. The relatively high iron concentration in addition to the
copper concentration facilitates the above-mentioned potential level
adjustment. Potential adjustment also facilitates the limitation of pyrite
dissolution, which consumes a lot of oxygen and increases the need for
Copper sulphide ore leaching takes place at a temperature of 85 - 95°C. The
regulation of the reactor temperature is performed indirectly. One indirect
temperature regulation mechanism is to use baffles, in which a medium, for
instance steam or cooling fluid, is circulated. Another method is to equip the
reactor with heating/cooling coils. The advantage of indirect regulation is the
fact that no excess water is introduced into the leaching stage. The leaching
mother liquor i.e. the extraction raffinate, is preheated to a temperature of 70
- 80°C with the reaction heat generated in leaching.
Typically oxygen is fed into all the leaching stage reactors to oxidise the
ferrous iron into ferric iron, but feeding oxygen into every reactor is not
however absolutely essential. Oxygen can be fed as oxygen, oxygen-
enriched air or air. By means of precise temperature control, the dissolving of
pyrite can also be regulated and thus leaching costs restricted. Reactors are
equipped with effective mixers, which keep the solids, liquid and gas in
suspension. The effective mixing maintained in the reactors enables the feed
of a fairly rough solid into the leaching stage. The oxidising gas is preferably
fed below the mixing element, from where the mixer sucks it into the
suspension. The mixing element is composed preferably of two blade mixers
located on the same shaft, which are shaped in a way appropriate for the
purpose. The tip speed of the mixer is adjusted to be less than 5 m/s, so that
the mixer blades do not fundamentally wear out.
The reactors are equipped with a cover so that the gas that accumulates
above the suspension can be circulated back into the suspension with the
aid of the upper blade mixer and only the amount equivalent to the amount of
gases other than oxygen in the gas is removed from the upper section of the
reactor. The reactors are not however autoclaves but act in atmospheric
pressure. The suspension flows from one reactor to another as an overflow.
The solution formed in leaching, which contains copper sulphate known as
PLS (Pregnant Leach Solution), is routed to solids separation and cooling.
Solids separation can be carried out for example in two stages such as
thickening and filtration, but in the illustration for the sake of simplicity it is
depicted as a single stage. The underflow of separation 2 consists of the
gangue of the ore (silicates), undissolved ore such as pyrite, gypsum and a
little elemental sulphur that is generated in the reactions. The overflow of
separation 2 is copper sulphate solution, with a copper concentration of
around 20-50 g/l, and in which there is still present about 20 - 70 g/l iron,
partly in ferrous and ferric form, so that the ferric iron concentration is at least
10 g/l. The sulphuric acid concentration of the solution is of the order of 18-
The copper sulphate solution is routed to cooling 3, where the solution is
cooled, so that its temperature is suitable for extraction. The ore generally
always also contains a small amount of calcium and arsenic, and now by
means of cooling, gypsum and ferric arsenate are precipitated out of the
solution, so that they do not precipitate during extraction into the first
The copper sulphate solution is routed to liquid-liquid extraction, which is
performed in two stages in accordance with the invention. The fact that the
copper concentration of the raffinate exiting the first extraction stage can be
left higher than normal, whereby the copper contained in the raffinate acts as
a catalyst for leaching may be considered one advantage of two-stage
extraction. Another advantage is the fact that, in connection with the second
extraction stage, substances dissolved from the ore and/or harmful to
leaching and extraction can be removed from the raffinate without great
tosses of copper. Any known copper extractant whatsoever is suitable as
extractant, diluted into a suitable solvent such as kerosene. It is also
beneficial for the method that the extractant concentration in the extraction
solution is adjusted to be high, in the region of 35 - 45%. The passage of the
extraction solution is depicted in the illustration by a dashed line, so the
solution entering extraction, BO (barren organic), is shown by a dashed and
dotted line and the copper-containing LO (loaded organic) solution exiting
extraction is represented by a dotted line. In the first stage 4 of extraction, 65
- 75% of the copper content of the PLS is extracted into the extraction
solution, whereupon the copper concentration of the aqueous solution to be
removed from extraction i.e. the raffinate, remains 8-12 g/l. As the copper
concentration of the raffinate has fallen, its sulphuric acid concentration has
risen in accordance with the following reaction:
CuSO4 + 2 HR → CuR2 + H2SO4 (6)
In the reaction, R means the hydrocarbon part of the extractant, which forms
a complex with the copper in the organic solution and the hydrogen ion part
of the extractant forms sulphuric acid in the aqueous solution with the
The majority, i.e. over 90% of the raffinate is routed back to ore leaching 1,
but a small part, in the region of 3-8%, is routed to the second extraction
stage 5. This part is adjusted according to requirements so that the iron
concentration of the raffinate does not rise above 70 g/l or that its impurity
content such as its zinc content does not rise too much. The raffinate to be
routed to the second extraction stage is neutralised in neutralisation stage 6
before the extraction stage by means of a suitable neutralising agent such as
lime or limestone. Before neutralisation the sulphuric acid concentration of
the solution is around 60 - 70 g/l and it is neutralised to a pH value of 1.6 -
1.8, so that the solution is suitable for extraction. In the second extraction
stage, copper is removed from the solution until the concentration is around
0.5 g/l or even smaller. The raffinate solution II from the second extraction
stage is removed from the circuit via precipitation stage 7, whereupon the
zinc and iron that dissolved from the ore during leaching are precipitated
from the solution, i.e. mainly the iron of the pyrite, for example by means of
lime. The deposit from neutralisation 6, which is mainly gypsum, is also
routed to the precipitation stage. The precipitate and solution formed are
removed and processed in an appropriate manner.
The LO solutions from both extraction stages, containing an abundance of
copper, are combined and routed to the washing and stripping stages, which
are depicted together as reference number 8. The aqueous solution exiting
stripping, which is the RE (rich electrolyte) to be routed to electrolysis 9,
contains around 45 - 50 g/l copper. Electrolysis is a conventional
electrowinning. The LE (lean electrolyte) exiting electrolysis is recirculated as
the aqueous solution for stripping.
In a test we leached copper sulphide-pyrite ore that had been ground to a
fineness of 95 % below 150 microns. Leaching was carried out in five
reactors arranged in series and leaching occurred at a temperature of 90°C.
Leaching took place by means of recirculated raffinate from the first
extraction stage. Leaching time was 9 h and during this time 91.8% of the
copper dissolved. The analysis of the ore was as follows:
The analyses of the raffinate used for leaching and the PLS formed in
leaching are given in Table 2.
The leaching stage reactors were equipped with baffles, where steam was
routed inside the first reactor baffles to heat the reactor space. The raffinate
was heated before being fed into the leaching stage with heat recovered in
PLS cooling, but the final temperature control of the solution was performed
by means of baffle steam. Since the reactions occurring in leaching are
exothermic, the subsequent reactors were cooled by means of the cooling
fluid flowing in the baffles. The solution flowed from one reactor to another by
gravity. The reactors were mixed with the aid of double-bladed mixers and
the oxygen required for oxidising iron was fed below the mixer. The redox
potential of the leaching stage was adjusted to be a value of 400 - 550 mV
vs. Ag/AgCI electrode.
The suspension of solution and solids to be removed from the last leaching
reactor was routed to thickening. The composition of the thickener underflow
was as follows: Cu 0.55%, Fe 31.1% and Zn 0.1%.
The thickener overflow was a copper-rich PLS, which was routed to cooling
prior to extraction. The solution was cooled to a temperature below 38°C, to
make it suitable for extraction. In connection with the cooling of the solution
gypsum and ferric arsenate were precipitated from it, and were removed
from the solution by means of thickening and filtration.
The extraction of the PLS was carried out in two stages, the first of which
comprised two extraction cells in series. The copper concentration of the
PLS was 40 g/l. The extractant concentration used for the BO organic
extraction solution was 40%. During the first extraction stage about 70% of
the copper in the PLS was extracted into the organic solution and the copper
concentration of the remaining raffinate was about 12 g/l.
The raffinate from extraction was mostly recirculated back to ore leaching,
but about 6% of it was routed to the pre-neutralisation preceding the second
extraction stage, which aids the control of the iron and zinc content of the
solution circulating in the leaching and extraction circuit. In addition to the
raffinate, the wash waters of various precipitates were routed to pre-
neutralisation so that the Cu concentration of the solution became 7.2 g/l.
Solution neutralisation was carried out with lime from an H2SO4
concentration of 80 g/l to a pH value of 1.6 - 1.8. The clear solution resulting
from solids separation was routed to the second extraction stage, which
comprised a single extraction cell. The extraction solution used was the
same extraction solution as that in the first extraction stage. In the second
stage, 93% of the copper contained in the aqueous solution was extracted,
so that the Cu concentration of the solution to be removed from this stage
was only 0.5 g/l.
The organic solutions rich in copper exiting both extraction stages were
combined and routed to the stripping and washing stage, which consisted of
two stripping cells, one extraction solution washing cell and an organic LO
solution tank. During the washing stage the chlorides and ferric iron
contained in the solution were removed from the organic solution with a
In the stripping cells copper was extracted from the organic solution into an
aqueous solution, which was the lean electrolyte LE exiting copper
electrowinning. The aqueous solution exiting stripping was an electrolyte rich
in copper (RE), which was routed to electrolysis.
In a test we leached copper sulphide-pyrite ore that had been ground to a
fineness of 95 % below 150 microns. Leaching was carried out in one reactor
at a temperature of 90°C. The leaching reactor was equipped with baffles.
The mixing element was equipped with both an upper and lower mixer. The
upper mixer was an A-type and the lower mixer a GLS-type. Leaching time
was 8 h. A synthetic leaching solution corresponded to an extraction
raffinate, in which the Fe3+ / Fe2+ ratio was adjusted to a value of 0.75:1. The
solution was preheated before being fed into the leaching reactor. The solids
content of the slurry in the reactor was adiusted to 400 g/l. The oxygen feed
amount in the test was a constant 80 ml/min/l (slurry). The analyses of the
ground ore and leaching solution were as follows:
In this test 93.9% of the copper dissolved. There was 41.5 g/l copper, 49.4
g/l iron and 21.1 g/l sulphuric acid in the leaching product solution.
Consequently the composition of the product solution cooled to suitable feed solution as such for the following sub-process i.e. copper
extraction. The analysis of the solids separated from the slurry, the leaching
residue, after leaching is presented in Table 4.
In a test a copper-rich PLS obtained from leaching was fed into an extraction
system, which consisted of two extraction cells, a loaded organic LO tank, a
washing cell and two stripping cells. The extraction system operates on the
countercurrent principle. The amount of organic phase extractant was 45 vol
%. The temperature of all the different solutions was 35°C.
In extraction 74% of the copper contained in the PLS transferred to the
organic phase. Water droplets were removed from the loaded organic phase
in the LO tank. Ferric iron was washed out of the organic phase loaded with
copper in the washing cell with acidic wash water. In stripping the copper
was removed from the loaded organic phase with an electrolyte solution
(LE), forming an electrolyte solution rich in copper (RE). Both test product
solutions were suitable for further processing; the raffinate as a mother liquor
for leaching and the RE for electrolysis.
The analyses of the leaching product solution or PLS, the feed solution of
leaching or extraction raffinate, stripping feed solution (LE) and stripping
product solution (RE) are presented in Table 5.
1. A method for the leaching of copper from a copper sulphide-pyrite ore,
whereby the finely-ground ore is routed to a solution containing
sulphuric acid and iron, which is oxidised during leaching,
characterised in that the copper sulphide ore is ground to a
coarseness of 95 -100 % below 150 m and routed to a leaching
stage, which occurs in atmospheric conditions and in which leaching
is carried out with a solution, the iron concentration of which is around
20 - 70 g/l, of which the amount of ferric iron is at least 10 g/l, the
amount of copper at the start of leaching 8-12 g/l and the H2SO4
concentration a minimum of 20 g/l.
2. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the temperature
of the leaching stage is 85 - 95°C.
3. A method according to claim 1 or 2, characterised in that the
leaching stage is carried out in closed reactors.
4. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that oxygen is fed
into the leaching stage.
5. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the grain size of
the ore is in the region of 50 -150 m.
6. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the Fe3+/Fe2+
ratio of the solution entering leaching is adjusted to the region of 0.5 -
7. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the oxidation-
reduction potential at the end of the leaching stage is adjusted to be
450 - 550 mV vs Ag/AgCI.
8. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the copper-rich
aqueous solution (PLS) exiting the leaching stage is routed to two-
stage liquid-liquid extraction, in which the raffinate from the first stage
is largely recirculated back to copper sulphide ore leaching.
9. A method according to claim 8, characterised in that prior to liquid-
liquid extraction the copper-rich aqueous solution is cooled.
10. A method according to claim 9, characterised in that gypsum and
ferric arsenate are removed from the copper-rich aqueous solution in
connection with cooling.
11. A method according to claim 9, characterised in that the thermal
capacity of the copper-rich aqueous solution is exploited to heat the
solution i.e. raffinate entering the leaching stage.
12. A method according to claim 8, characterised in that over 90% of
the raffinate of the first extraction stage is recirculated to copper
sulphide leaching and the remainder is routed to the second extraction
13. A method according to claim 12, characterised in that the raffinate to
be routed to the second extraction stage is subjected to neutralisation
of its sulphuric acid content of 60 - 70 g/l to a pH value of 1.6 - 1.8 to
neutralise the acid in the solution.
14. A method according to claim 13, characterised in that neutralisation
is performed by means of lime or limestone.
15. A method according to claim 8 or 12, characterised in that the
copper concentration of raffinate il exiting the second extraction stage
is around 0. 5 g/l.
16. A method according to claim 1, characterised in that the ore
leaching stage is performed in several closed reactors connected in
series, into which an oxygen-containing gas is fed below the mixing
element of the reactor and where said reactors are equipped with
17. A method according to claim 16, characterised in that the
temperature of the reactors is adjusted indirectly by means of an
agent fed inside the baffles.
18. A method according to claim 16, characterised in that the leaching
stage reactors are equipped with a mixing element, which is
composed of two mixers located on the same shaft in order to form a
suspension of solids, liquid and gas.
The invention relates to a method whereby copper is recovered from a copper sulphide ore containing pyrite. According
to the method the ore is ground and leached into a solution containing sulphuric acid in atmospheric conditions by means
of trivalent copper. As the copper sulphide leaches out, the trivalent iron is reduced to divalent and is oxidised back to trivalent by
means of oxygen during leaching. Leaching is carried out in a closed reactor, where the undissolved gas rising from the solution
in the upper section of the reactor is circulated back into the suspension of solution, solids and gas. Leaching is performed in the
presence of both divalent and trivalent iron and preferably with the dissolved copper acting as a catalyst to promote leaching. The
conditions are adjusted to be such that the pyrite of the ore essentially does not dissolve.
|Indian Patent Application Number||2925/KOLNP/2008|
|PG Journal Number||50/2013|
|Date of Filing||18-Jul-2008|
|Name of Patentee||OUTOTEC OYJ|
|Applicant Address||RIIHITONTUNTIE 7, FI-02200 ESPOO|
|PCT International Classification Number||C22B 3/08,C22B 15/00|
|PCT International Application Number||PCT/FI2007/000036|
|PCT International Filing date||2007-02-14|