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Selective removal of mercury using zinc sulfide

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2013, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 91-94

Gabby, K.L.; Eisele, T.C.


Selective removal of mercury from cyanide leaching solutions while retaining silver has been a long-standing problem, due to the chemical similarity of mercury and silver. In order to be practical, a mercury removal process needs to be both highly selective and use inexpensive materials. This paper reports the use of zinc sulfide (ZnS) as a precipitant for mercury. The mercury cyanide complex (Hg(CN)42-) undergoes a replacement reaction with the zinc sulfide, forming insoluble HgS, while the silver cyanide complex (Ag(CN)2-) remains in solution. Under appropriate conditions, the separation of mercury from silver is nearly quantitative, with close to 100% removal of mercury, while nearly none of the silver is precipitated.