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Cathodic reduction of iron(III) and copper(II) on various sulfide minerals in chloride solutions

Nicol, M.J., Tjandrawan, V. and Zhang, S. (2016) Cathodic reduction of iron(III) and copper(II) on various sulfide minerals in chloride solutions. Hydrometallurgy, 166 . pp. 113-122.

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A comparative study of the electrochemical reduction of iron(III) and copper(II) ions on selected sulfide minerals in concentrated chloride solutions has been carried out as part of a broader study of the kinetics of the leaching of chalcopyrite, covellite, enargite and pyrite under chloride heap leaching conditions. Mixed potential, cyclic voltammetric and potentiostatic measurements have been made using rotating disk electrodes of massive mineral samples. For comparative purposes, arsenopyrite, platinum and gold electrodes have also been used under the same conditions. The mixed potentials of the various minerals in solutions containing 4.2 mol/L sodium chloride, 0.1 mol/L hydrochloric acid and 0.054 mol/L iron(III) and/or 0.047 mol/L copper(II) ions at 25 °C vary with time depending on the mineral reactivity. The difference between the mixed potentials and the solution potentials provide qualitative indications of mineral reactivity to dissolution with iron(III) or copper(II) as oxidants.

Cyclic voltammetry conducted at potentials negative to the mixed potentials at slow sweep rates after the mixed potential measurements has shown variable reactivity of the minerals for reduction of iron(III) and copper(II) ions. The data has been analysed in terms of electrochemical kinetics using a modified Butler-Volmer approach that takes into account mass transport of the oxidized and reduced species and anodic oxidation of the minerals. The electrochemical rate constant derived from a fit of the data to the rate equation shows that all the minerals have greater reactivity for the reduction of copper(II) than iron(III) ions.

The rate constant varies by about an order of magnitude within the mineral group for both iron(III) and copper(II) reduction and the rate of reduction on platinum and gold electrodes are higher for both couples than for the mineral electrodes. The ratio of the rate of copper(II) reduction to iron(III) reduction is significantly greater for the minerals containing copper than for those without copper.

The observed influence of mass transport on the cathodic currents close to the mixed potentials for the reduction of copper(II) on platinum, pyrite and enargite has been quantitatively explained in terms of the effect of mass transport on the surface concentration of copper(I).

An attempt has been made to correlate the kinetic data with published data on the semi-conducting properties of the metal sulfides. With the exception of covellite (which is not considered a semiconductor), the formal potentials of the copper(II)/copper(I) and iron(III)/iron(II) couples fall within the bandgaps of the metal sulfides and there does not appear to be any correlation between the energy levels of the couples in solution relative to the conduction bands of the sulfides and the reactivity for electron transfer to the metal ion couples. The effect of illumination with light of wavelength 405 nm on the cathodic currents has been demonstrated to be due to thermal and not photocurrent effects.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering and Information Technology
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2016 Elsevier B.V.
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