The mechanism of leaching of gold from refractory ores
Refractory gold ores commonly contain free gold, submicroscopic gold, base metal sulphides, pyrite, pyrrhorite, labile sulphides and carbonaceous material. The analysis of gold deportment with the diagnostic leaching technique has opened a research field to gain more insight into the fundamentals of the kinetic behaviour of gold dissolution from refractory ores. Hence, more detailed studies on the kinetics of the reactions that occur during leaching with cyanide are now possible. Previous research work has indicated that the dissolution rate of gold during cyanidation becomes depressed after a certain time with no further increase in the rate. However, a second noticeable increase in the gold dissolution rate has been observed after a leaching time of 5 to 12 hours during some of the cyanidations, following the destruction of a mineral with the diagnostic leaching technique. If such a second increase in dissolution rate does not occur, the re-leaching of the filtered solids with a fresh cyanide solution yields an additional gold extraction of 4 to 8 %. Various experimental results have indicated that a passivative film forms on the surface of some of the liberated gold. The selective destruction of the various minerals with oxidative acid leaches destroys and/or decomposes certain minerals which may form films on the gold surface by precipitation. The chemical composition of these films and precipitates depends on the mineralogy of the sample. These films may be oxides, sulphides, carbonates and cyanide complexes. The complexes can be destroyed, depending on the nature of the film, by interstage dilute acid and/or cyanide washes in an agitated vessel. The destruction of the films exposes the gold surface for cyanidation. Whereas most of the previous studies on the leaching of gold have focused on the whole ore, the emphasis in this study was on the leaching behaviour of gold from various ore constituents. This approach of studying the leaching behaviour of different gold bearing minerals has provided reasons why some ores leach better than others. © 1992.