Flowsheet development and comparison for the recovery of precious metals from cyanide leach solutions

Van Wyk, Andries Pieter (2014-04)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Platreef ore deposit, situated in the Bushveld Igneous Complex, is one of the world’s largest platinum group metal (PGM) resources. The mineralogy of this resource is, however, unique as it consists of complex PGM mineralization with mainly copper and nickel, at very low PGM grades. The PGMs are mainly present in the ore as slow floating refractory minerals resulting in marginal process economics when processing via traditional mill-float-smelt processes. A new process is currently being investigated to extract PGMs from low grade Platreef ore and concentrate using a sequential heap leach process entailing heap bioleaching and high temperature cyanide leaching. The heap bioleach extracts the base metals in an acidic sulphate medium using a mixed culture of mesophiles and thermophiles. After heap bioleaching, the heap will be reclaimed, rinsed and restacked for high temperature cyanide leaching where the cyanide liquor is directly heated via solar energy in panels. Platinum, palladium and gold are extracted during the cyanide leaching stage and then recovered from the pregnant liquor either by adsorption onto activated carbon or ion exchange resins. Final metal recovery will proceed by techniques such as electrowinning and precipitation. In this thesis, process options for the recovery of platinum group metals from cyanide solutions were identified with different flowsheet alternatives developed utilizing these options. Simulations were made for the different processing alternatives with the objective of finding the alternative flowsheet to maximise net present value. The various processing options were simulated, combining data from concurrent experimental studies and data reported in literature with kinetic adsorption models. This was combined with economic models to arrive at an optimum design for each flowsheet alternative. Seven different processing alternatives for the recovery of platinum group metals from cyanide solutions were developed and investigated. These included two different activated carbon flowsheets as well as five different ion exchange resin flowsheets. The flowsheets differ in the elution procedures as well as the use of single or multiple resins. The well-known Merrill Crowe precipitation process was investigated but was found to yield unsatisfactory results. In each alternative, the cyanide solution is sent to a SART (sulphidization, acidification, recycling and thickening) plant to remove copper, nickel and zinc from solution prior to upgrading by means of adsorption onto activated carbon or ion exchange resins and subsequent elution. The platinum group metals are recovered from the eluate by precipitation using an autoclave, producing a solid product consisting of base and precious metals, while gold is recovered by electrowinning. It was found that the overall performance of the resin-in-solution (RIS) flowsheets were superior to that of the carbon-in-solution (CIS) flowsheets, from an overall PGM recovery perspective and product grades. The superior adsorption kinetics and high selectivity of the resins for the PGMs resulted in excellent overall plant performances, with PGM extractions in excess of 97%. Gold extraction efficiencies with resins were found to be lower than those achieved in the CIS flowsheets, mainly due to the higher selectivity of the resins for the divalent platinum and palladium cyanide complexes and poor gold elution efficiencies. The gold concentrations in the feed streams to these processes were, however, very low, at only 8.5% of the total precious metal content. The overall precious metal recoveries of the RIS flowsheets were thus higher than the CIS flowsheets due to the superior PGM extractions. From the cost analyses performed it was found that the RIS flowsheets requires lower initial capital costs, almost 28% lower than that require for the CIS flowsheets, while the operating cost requirements were found to be ±10% lower. This, combined with the high overall precious metal extractions, resulted in the RIS flowsheets to achieve higher net present values than those of the CIS flowsheets over an assumed project life of 15 years. The optimum flowsheet proposed for the recovery of precious metals from cyanide leach solutions was a RIS flowsheet option that employed the Amberlite PWA 5 resin, capable of extracting platinum, palladium and gold from solution, with elution being performed with a zinc cyanide solution. This process option had the lowest capital and operating cost requirements while achieving similar overall precious metal recoveries as the other flowsheets. Economic analysis of this process yielded the highest net present value, with a 31% increase in the overall return on investment compared to the optimal CIS flowsheet. Based on this, it was concluded that resin technology would be the best process option for recovering precious metals from cyanide leach solutions, however, additional research is required as the current level of process development is only at a concept phase.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Platrif-erts, geleë in die Bosveld Kompleks, is een van die wêreld se grootste platinum groep metaal (PGM) reserwes. Die mineralogie van hierdie reserwe is uniek en bestaan uit komplekse PGM mineralisasie met hoofsaaklik koper en nikkel, teen baie lae PGM inhoud. Die PGMe is hoofsaaklik teenwoordig in die erts as stadig drywende minerale en dit lei tot marginale ekonomiese uitsigte wanneer hierdie reserwe deur tradisionele metodes verwerk word. Tans word ʼn nuwe proses ondersoek om die PGMe vanuit lae graad Platrif-erts en konsentraat te ontgin deur gebruik te maak van ʼn sekwensiële hooploogproses wat uit ʼn bio-loog en hoë temperatuur sianied loog stappe bestaan. Die bio-loog stap is verantwoordelik vir die ontginning van die basis metale deur gebruik te maak van ʼn suur sulfaat medium bestaande uit ʼn gemengde kultuur van mesofiele en termofiele. Nadat die bio-hooploog stap voltooi is, word die hoop herwin, gewas en herpak vir die daaropvolgende hoë temperatuur sianied loog, waar die sianied oplossing direk verhit word deur die gebruik van son panele. Platinum, palladium en goud word tydens hierdie stap ontgin en kan dan herwin word vanuit die loog oplossing deur gebruik te maak van adsorpsie deur geaktiveerde koolstof of ioon-uitruilings harse. Finale metaal herwinning kan deur elektroplatering en presipitasie vermag word. In hierdie tesis word verskeie proses opsies vir die ontginning en herwinning van PGMe vanuit sianied loog oplossings ondersoek waarna verskeie proses vloei diagram alternatiewe ontwikkel is met die doel om die opsie te vind wat die hoogste netto ekonomiese waarde sal oplewer. Die verskillende opsies is gesimuleer deur gebruik te maak van eksperimentele data gepubliseer in die literatuur en dit te kombineer met kinetiese adsorpsie modelle. Dit was dan gekombineer met ekonomiese modelle om ʼn optimum ontwerp van elke proses te verkry. Sewe verskillende proses vloei diagramme vir die herwinning en ontginning van PGMe vanuit sianied loog oplossings is ontwikkel en ondersoek. Hierdie het twee verkillende geaktiveerde koolstof prosesse en vyf verskillende ioon-uitruilings hars prosesse beslaan. Die opsies het verskil van eluerings metodes en adsorpsie medium. Die alombekende Merrill Crowe presipitasie proses is ook ondersoek, maar daar is gevind dat hierdie proses oneffektiewe resultate oplewer met betrekking tot die herwinning van die drie edel metale. In elke alternatief word die sianied oplossing in ʼn SART proses verwerk, waar die basis metale herwin word, gevolg deur die opgradering van die edel metale d.m.v. geaktiveerde koolstof adsorpsie of ekstraksie m.b.v. ioon-uitruilings harse, gevolg deur eluering. Die PGMe word dan herwin vanuit die eluerings oplossing deur termiese degradering van die metaal sianied komplekse, wat ʼn hoë graad presipitaat lewer bestaande uit die basis en edel metale. Goud word herwin d.m.v. elektroplatering. Daar is bevind dat die algehele verrigting van die ioon-uitruilings hars opsies beter was as die van die geaktiveerde koolstof opsies, beide van ʼn algehele edel metaal herwinnings en produk suiwerheid perspektief. Die verhoogde adsorpsie kinetika en hoër PGM selektiwiteit van die harse het daartoe gelei dat uitstekende algehele PGM herwinning verkry is in hierdie opsies, meer as 97%. Goud ekstraksie deur die harse was laer as wat verkry was deur die geaktiveerde koolstof opsies, weens die hoër selektiwiteit van die harse vir die divalente platinum en palladium sianied komplekse en laer hars eluering effektiwiteit. Die goud konsentrasies in die voer strome na die prosesse was laag, en het sowat 8.5% van die totale edel metale uitgemaak, wat bygedra het tot die lae goud herwinning. Algeheel was die edel metaal herwinning van die hars prosesse beter as die van die koolstof prosesse a.g.v. die hoër PGM adsorpsie. Koste evaluerings van die verskillende vloeidiagramme het getoon dat die hars opsies laer kapitaal kostes benodig, omtrent 28% minder as die koolstof opsies, terwyl bedryfskostes omtrent 10% minder was. Dit het bygedra tot die feit dat die ioon-uitruiling hars opsies ʼn hoër algehele netto ekonomiese waarde oor ʼn projek leeftyd van 15 jaar sal hê, aangesien de PGM ekstraksie, en dus die jaarlikse inkomste, ook hoër was. Die algehele proses vloei diagram wat voorgestel is vir die herwinning van edel metale vanuit sianied loog oplossings is die hars opsie wat gebruik maak van die Amberlite PWA 5 hars, wat in staat is om platinum, palladium en goud terselfdertyd te absorbeer, gevolg deur die eluering van die hars deur die gebruik van ʼn sink sianied oplossing. Hierdie proses het die laagste kapitaal en bedryfskostes getoon terwyl algehele PGM herwinning om en by dieselfde was as al die ander opsies. Hierdie proses sal verder ʼn 31% verhoging in die opbrengs op belegging lewer in vergelyking met die optimum geaktiveerde koolstof opsie. Die algehele gevolgtrekking is dat hars tegnologie die beter opsie sal wees vir die herwinning van edel metale vanuit sianied loog oplossings. Addisionele navorsing is dus nodig om resultate te verbeter aangesien hierdie studie slegs op ʼn konsep fase benadering was.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86302
This item appears in the following collections: