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Leaching Sulfidation-Partitioned Chalcopyrite To Selectively Recover Copper
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  • Description:
    As a part of ongoing research into the sulfidation partitioning of selected complex minerals, the U.S. Bureau of Mines conducted research designed to selectively recover Cu from sulfidized chalcopyrite (CuFeS2). Ferric chloride (FeCI3) solutions leached >90 pct of the Cu and <20 pct (sometimes < 10 pct) of the Fe in the sulfidized concentrates. Cupric chloride (CuCI2) leaches were even more selective, solubilizing essentially 100 pct of the Cu and < 5 pct of the Fe. In contrast, leaching non-sulfidized CuFeS2 with either FeCl3 or CuCl2 showed that somewhat more Fe than Cu dissolved. These studies demonstrate that Cu is substantially more leachable from sulfidized CuFeS2 than from nonsulfidized CuFeS2• The Cu-and Fe-bearing constituents generated as sulfidation products, CuS (covellite) and FeS2 (pyrite), respectively, are differentially dissolved. The solubility of Fe from pyrite in sulfidized CuFeS2 is much lower than the solubility of Fe from complex nonsulfidized sulfide where Fe and Cu are bound in the same crystal lattice. Thus, the Cu dissolves selectively, producing a high-Cu filtrate from which Cu can be recovered by cementation or by electrolysis. Flotation of CuS-FeS2 mixtures indicates partitioned phases can be physically separated if effective liberation can be achieved. Magnetic separation tests yielded less promising results.

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