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Copper concentrate treatment process comparison (5 replies)

Bob Mathias
12 months ago
Bob Mathias 12 months ago

Which copper concentrate treatment process is preferred, Hydro-metallurgical or Pyro-metallurgical ?

I understand it depends on the copper concentrate grade. Pyrometallurgical extraction is the most preferred method particularly for concentrate grades containing 20 - 30% Cu.

I also hear chalcopyrite could be very difficult or almost impossible to process by hydrometallurgical process with a sufficient economical benefits in comparison to pyrometallurgical process.

Based on the technical, economical and environmental views, which one is preferred for treatment of chalcopyrite concentrate in order to copper production of 150000 TPY.

John Koenig
12 months ago
John Koenig 12 months ago

Probably getting towards the lower end of the capacity profile for smelting these days (>100, 000 tpa Cu), but will also depend on availability of power, water and the local market for acid. Costs will also play a role (favored towards a developing country with an appetite for copper). 

Smelting is a good way of dealing with the iron (fayalite) and the sulphur is readily captured during converting as acid. With electrowinning,recovery the anode slimes is possible (gold, silver, selenium).
Hydrometallurgical routes for treating large tonnages of chalcopyrite just haven't really got there yet.

Bill Fraser
12 months ago
Bill Fraser 12 months ago

Hydrometallurgy is definitely preferred for the lower grade ores and residues. We process ores and residues using cyanide in a new patented process. Our average grades of Cu are between 0,2 - 0,4% Cu. The advantages of using cyanide is that we are able to achieve the recoveries of the other base and precious metals accosiated with the copper ore bodies. The final conc is perfectly suited for pyrometalurgy. Grades of Cu conc Cn be between 39 - 60 % CuS

Alan Carter
12 months ago
Alan Carter 12 months ago

Small amounts and low grade of Cu a definite Hydromet all dependent on your resources and costs. 20% > grade is a definite Pyromet.

John Koenig
12 months ago
John Koenig 12 months ago

It is also driven by mineralogy. If it is oxides , acid leaching/EW; secondary sulphides ferric leaching/EW and if primary sulphides, make a concentrate and sell to a smelter.

Since no doubt this is not a convincing  enough although educated opinion, I would suggest that you spend some time and money on undertaking a series of Studies, culminating in a Feasibility Study. Rather than relying on cost-effective third party opinions, taking the Studies route, which would consider the nature of the resource, the mining requirements, develop a metallurgical flowsheet based on testwork as well as infrastructure requirements, you can personally develop this 'convincing and educated opinion' for the development of a small scale copper operation.

But as previously noted, if it is a small project (<100,000 tpa Cu) it will not support a smelting operation, particularly in a Western country.

Victor Bergman
12 months ago
Victor Bergman 12 months ago

It is possible to leach most of copper sulphides (also chalcopyrite) with chloride leaching technology having high metal recoveries. Also high gold and silver recoveries are possible.

How ever without some pre-feasibility studies it is very difficult to say what is the best way, all projects/deposits are different.

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