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Oxidation of refractory gold concentrates and simultaneous dissolution of gold in aerated alkaline solutions

Zhang, Suchun (2004) Oxidation of refractory gold concentrates and simultaneous dissolution of gold in aerated alkaline solutions. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The oxidation of refractory gold concentrates containing arsenopyrite and pyrite and the simultaneous dissolution of gold in aerated alkaline solutions at ambient temperatures and pressures without the addition of cyanide has been studied. It involves the following aspects: the chemistry of the oxidation of pure arsenopyrite and pyrite minerals in aerated alkaline solutions; the kinetics of oxidation of arsenopyrite and the simultaneous dissolution of gold in such solutions; the kinetics of simultaneous dissolution of gold during the alkaline oxidation of refractory gold concentrates; the electrochemistry of gold in alkaline solutions containing thiosulfate or monothioarsenate; the effect of copper on the leaching of gold in alkaline thiosulfate solutions; and the leaching of gold in alkaline solutions with thioarsenites.

The nature and proportions of the products of the oxidation of arsenopyrite in aerated alkaline solutions have been studied using high pressure ion chromatography techniques that have shown that thiosulfate and a new species, monothioarsenate, are the main oxidation products of arsenopyrite apart from arsenate and sulfite. The alkaline oxidation of pyrite primarily yields thiosulfate and sulfite. A kinetic investigation of the oxidation of arsenopyrite with air or oxygen has shown that the initial rate of arsenopyrite oxidation is proportional to the concentration of dissolved oxygen. A reaction mechanism for the oxidation of arsenopyrite has been proposed, which involves an anodic oxidation of the mineral involving hydroxyl ions coupled to a cathodic process for oxygen reduction which is partially controlled by mass transfer of dissolved oxygen to the mineral surface.

Detailed studies of the dissolution behaviour of gold in aerated alkaline solutions in the presence of thiosulfate or monothioarsenate by electrochemical and leaching methods have demonstrated that the dissolution rate is very low as compared to that of gold in alkaline cyanide or ammoniacal thiosulfate solutions. It has been found that copper ions catalyze the dissolution of gold in the thiosulfate solutions in the absence of ammonia. The leaching experiments also have shown that gold may dissolve in alkaline thioarsenite solutions, which provides a possible new process option for the leaching of gold.

The oxidation of refractory arsenical gold concentrates in aerated alkaline solutions results in the formation of thiosulfate, arsenate and sulfate as well as the dissolution of gold, copper and iron. It appears that the dissolution of gold is due to the complex reactions of gold with thiosulfate ions promoted by the catalytic effect of copper ions. Up to 80% of the gold may be extracted during the oxidation of selected refractory arsenical

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering Science
Supervisor(s): Nicol, Michael
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