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Cu isotope fractionation in exploration geology and hydrometallurgy: examples from porphyry copper deposits

Mining Engineering , 2012, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 42-46

Mathur, R.; Titley, S. R.; Schlitt, W. J.; Wilson, M.


Cu isotope fractionation in low-temperature aqueous environments has been well documented. Here Cu fractionation was applied to two distinct, yet related, mining problems. First, an exploration geology application, where copper isotope fractionation was measured in oxidized leach caps, chalcocite enrichment blankets and hypogene mineralization in three porphyry copper deposits located in the southwestern U.S. Cu isotope patterns exist in a vertical distribution within the mines, coupled with distinct relationships with the Cu grade. Second, a hydrometallurgical application, where copper isotope fractionation was measured in leach fluids, feed and residues from a quick leach test (QLT) on Cañariaco, Peru ores. The results indicate the relative proportions of the minerals providing Cu during leaching. Interpretations of the QLT test measurements indicate covellite is the dominant ore mineral providing Cu during leaching. Both applications clearly demonstrate the use of the Cu isotope technique to understand low-temperature aqueous processes involving copper.