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Evaluation of sulfuric acid baking and leaching of enargite concentrates

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2012, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 97-102

Safarzadeh, M. S.; Moats, M. S.; Miller, J. D.


Over the last fifty years, the treatment of enargite concentrates has not received much attention, primarily because of the availability of other clean concentrates suitable for processing with existing smelting and/or leaching technologies. As traditional copper ores have become scarcer, copper-arsenic ore deposits have garnered more interest. Arsenic release is a significant concern during the treatment of enargite concentrates by pyro or hydrometallurgical methods. Enargite is also very refractive in standard leaching procedures. Thus, economical treatment options for enargite concentrates are needed. Preliminary experiments have shown that the acid bake-leach process could be adapted and used for the treatment of enargite concentrates. In this study, low-temperature (100-400º C) sulfuric acid baking of an enargite concentrate followed by water leaching has been evaluated. The results indicate the thermal transformation of enargite to copper sulfate happens during sulfuric acid baking, with most of the arsenic being released from the concentrate into the gas phase when baking at 400º C. The condition for maximum copper extraction (~100%) from the concentrate was found to be 400º C, a sulfuric acid concentration of 0.5 mL/g and two hours baking time. Part of the arsenic was captured in the form of arsenopyrite (FeAsS). X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis proved the presence of some arsenic in the form of claudetite (As2O3) in the baked concentrate. Acid baking of pure enargite behaved in a similar fashion.