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Copper-catalyzed thiosulfate leaching of low-grade gold ores

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0304-386x(92)90013-p
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography


Abstract Copper-catalyzed thiosulfate leaching is being investigated by the U.S. Bureau of Mines as a potentially economical and environmentally safe method for heap leaching or in situ leaching of low-grade oxidized gold ores. Six variables were investigated in fractional factorial screening tests, including thiosulfate (S 2O 3 2−), sulfate (SO 3 2−), copper (Cu 2+) and ammonia (as NH 4OH) concentrations; air/inert atmosphere; and leaching time. Thiosulfate and sulfite concentrations and leaching time influenced gold extraction, while copper affected thiosulfate consumption. Ammonia concentration and leach atmosphere had no significant effect within the experimental region tested. The data from the fractional factorial screening tests were used in face-centered cubic (FCC) surface response experiments to determine the optimum leach conditions for high gold extraction and low thiosulfate consumption. Two models were generated from the data for predicting gold extraction and thiosulfate consumption within the experimental region. The models predicted 90% gold extraction and a consumption of 0.2 kgS 2O 3 2−/t ore at 0.20 M S 2O 3 2−, 0.00625 M SO 3 2−, 0.001 MCu 2+, 0.09 M NH 4OH, and leaching for 48h. Actual tests resulted in 83% gold extraction with 0.21kgS 2O 3 2− consumed/t ore. These results compare favorably to 86% gold extraction and 0.21 kg CN − consumption/t ore using standard cyanidation methods and 24 h leaching time.

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