Percolation Leaching of a Chalcopyrite-Bearing Ore at Ambient and Elevated Temperatures With Bacteria
Description:The Bureau of Mines conducted a large-scale (6.4 t), long-term (2,165 days) test to gain a better understanding of the leaching characteristics of chalcopyritic ores. An ore sample containing 0.77 pct Cu was leached in a fiberglass column by downward percolation of acidified ferric sulfate solutions. Three sets of leaching conditions were investigated: (1) ambient temperature leaching, (2) elevated temperature (50° to 60° C) leaching, and (3) elevated temperature leaching after inoculation with thermophilic bacteria. Leaching at ambient temperature resulted in a copper extraction rate of 0.44 pct per 100 days. Increasing the temperature to 50° to 60° C resulted in decreased activity of natural mesophilic bacteria, and the leaching rate decreased to 0.22 pct per 100 days. The pH was lowered from 2.0 to 1.6, and nutrient solutions that contained thermophilic bacteria were added. This procedure resulted in an increase in the ferric-to-ferrous iron ratio and an increase in the copper leaching rate. However, the increased leaching rate was not sustained, and 120 days after inoculation the bacterial activity declined, the ferrous iron content increased, and the copper leaching rate decreased.
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