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Managing copper in leach solution at the Çöpler gold mine: laboratory testing and process design

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2011, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 133-138

Botz, M.; Kaczmarek, A.; Orser, S.


 Alacer Gold Corporation is constructing the Çöpler Gold Mine in eastern Turkey. Mining commenced in the fourth quarter of 2009 and gold production started in the fourth quarter of 2010. The mine is a 15,500 t/day oxide heap leach with three-stage crushing, agglomeration, carbon adsorption and electrowinning for final metal recovery. Leach solution copper levels are expected to be relatively low during the first two years of production, but will increase in later years due to higher copper content in the mined and processed ore. Over the mine life, approximately 40 Mt of ore will be placed on the leach pad, which will contain about 35,000 t of copper. Metallurgical testing indicates copper extraction will vary by ore type and, if controls are not implemented, may lead to copper levels exceeding 1,000 mg/L in pregnant solution. High copper levels in leach solution have the deleterious effect of increasing cyanide consumption and potentially overwhelming the ability of the carbon circuit to effectively adsorb the principal economic metals, which in this case are gold and silver. Using data obtained from laboratory leach column testwork, the heap leach facility was modeled using METSIM process simulation software to estimate the build-up of copper in leach solution over the life of the mine. Laboratory testwork was also performed to evaluate process conditions for treating a portion of pregnant leach solution via sulfide addition to precipitate saleable copper as copper sulfide (Cu2S).