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Influence of Chelating Reagents on Leaching of Copper Ore
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    A major problem encountered in dump leaching operations is the plugging of both the dump and the piping by precipitated iron compounds. Bureau of Mines research to obtain basic data on agitation leaching and dump leaching methods has shown that the addition of organic chelating reagents can significantly enhance the lixiviant permeability through the ore and the concentration of the metal values in the liquor. For example, the addition of 5 giL citric acid (CA) to a conventional sulfuric acid lixiviant almost doubled the fluid flow rate through 5-cm-diameter laboratory columns containing copper ore. After 185 h of per-colation leaching, the metal concentrations with (and without, in parentheses) CA were 1.7 (1.5) giL Cu, 200 (70) ppm Mn, 160 (40) ppm AI, and 6 (3) ppm Co. The enhancement of metal concentrations with chelating reagents such as CA was confirmed by determining the solubil-ity of several metal ions as functions of pH and chelating reagent con-centration. When ferric ions became insoluble at pH values above 3, the concentrations of other ions also decreased. The addition of che-lating reagents kept iron, as well as the other dissolved metals, in solution even at pH values as high as 5. Citric acid was a more effective chelating reagent than gluconic acid, oxalic acid, or sodium lignin sulfonate.

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