Heap leach studies to improve recovery

Although heap leaching has been widely used for low grade copper and gold ores for several decades – and more recently for nickel laterite ores – the understanding of some elements of the process is far from complete.

While it is well recognised that agglomeration of fines improves recovery, data on optimal agglomeration processes is lacking. This is surprising, because the high tonnages commonly treated by leaching mean that even a small increase in recovery rates can mean a significant financial gain. To address this opportunity, the University of Utah has proposed a three year research program to:

  • Develop a quality control tool set for the agglomeration process
  • Develop an empirical agglomeration model to assist operators in adjusting agglomeration variables to improve recovery
  • Improve understanding of the chemistry of bonding during the agglomeration process
  • Develop acid resistant binders for agglomeration, of copper ores
  • Improve understanding of fluid flow and porosity of stacked agglomerates
  • Provide guidelines for appropriate moisture content.

The research will be conducted over three years and have a total estimated cost of $953,563. An optional sub-project on the agglomeration of a nickel laterite ore is also offered at an additional cost of $300,000 over three years. Because of the widespread use of heap leaching and the financial benefits of improved recovery, this research may have appeal to a range of companies

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