Characterization of copper smelter slag and recovery of residual metals from these residues

Luver Echeverry-Vargas, Néstor Ricardo Rojas-Reyes, Edgar Estupiñán


The pyrometallurgical copper extraction process generates 2.2 t of residues for each ton of produced metal. Initially, this paper shows the physical and chemical characterization of a copper processing residue, followed by the procedure to obtain the gold and silver that are contained in the copper residue. The characterization of a white metal oxidized calcine indicates a high content of copper as cupric ferrite, and important values of gold and silver. Gold and silver concentrations were 38.5 g t-1 and 1085 g t-1, respectively. The gold was found scattered in cupric ferrite grains, while the silver was dissolved in a matrix of Cu-S in amounts between 1 % and 50 %. Cyanidation tests showed that 95 % gold recovery could be obtained with a concentration of 0.06 g l-1 KCN, a pH of 10.5, room temperature, and a residence time of 80 h. When the temperature was increased to 75 °C, and the other cyanidation parameters were maintained intact, the same recovery was obtained but with a shorter residence time. Silver recovery was less than 30 % with a concentration of 1.2 g l-1 KCN, pH of 10.5, temperature of 45 °C, and a residence time longer than 72 h.


copper smelter slag; cyanidation; gold; silver

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