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Estimating process design gold extraction, leach residence time and cyanide consumption for high cyanide-consuming gold ore

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2015, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 111-120

Brittan, M.; Plenge, G.


Plant design parameters for gold extraction, leach residence time and cyanide consumption are generally determined from standard bench-scale bottle roll or agitation leach tests. The application of laboratory data to process design has essentially evolved from the testing of oxide or low cyanide-consuming ores. Such scale-up factors may not be appropriate for ores that deplete cyanide and oxygen since this interferes with gold extraction kinetics. High cyanide-consuming ores also exacerbate the differences between the conditions applicable to small batch tests and large continuous operations. Testing a reactive high-sulfide South American ore deposit necessitated the re-evaluation of conventional bench-scale cyanidation procedures. Pulp density can be a major factor affecting the results for plant design purposes and should be treated as a test work variable. As with high clay-bearing ore, where pulp viscosity can hinder mass transfer, minimizing the influence of test equipment on gold extraction kinetics may require low pulp densities. This introduces interpretative complexity since cyanide consumption changes as a function of pulp density. Activated carbon also consumes cyanide, so its effect has to be accounted for in the case of carbon-in-leach (CIL) or carbon-in-pulp (CIP) plant flowsheets. Since cyanide is an expensive reagent, often a major component of plant operating costs, it is important that the scale-up of cyanide consumption from laboratory to plant be representative. The traditional method of reporting cyanide consumption in bench-scale testing is questioned since it takes credit for residual free cyanide in leach tails. The projected plant consumption may be better estimated by using the total cyanide addition in a laboratory test. We propose a test work protocol that categorizes the cyanide consumption into its components but requires more extensive testing to generate design data. The ultimate validation of scale-up factors used by project engineers requires rigorous bench-scale versus commercial plant comparative data. Such data are not readily available.