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Study on copper recovery from smelted low-grade e-scrap using hydrometallurgical methods

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2017, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 20-29

Rudnik, E.; Dashbold, N.



Waste electric and electronic equipment currently comprises the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, but at the same time it is seen as an important source of metals for the recycling industry. E-waste is usually treated pyrometallurgically, with hydrometallurgical methods used to a lesser extent. This paper reports the results of research on the selective recovery of copper from smelted low-value electronic waste. Pyrometallurgical pretreatment of the scrap allowed the removal of plastics and the increase of metal content in the material. The obtained alloy of copper, zinc, tin and silver was a multiphase solid consisting of two brass phases and inclusions rich in iron, lead and silver. Copper alloy was further anodically dissolved in ammoniacal chloride solution. It resulted in high degradation of the material and accumulation of the metals mainly in the slime. The slime was then leached in acid or ammoniacal chloride and sulfate solutions followed by selective copper electrowinning. Hydrochloric acid was the most efficient solvent for the slime, but ammoniacal solutions were more selective for copper. Copper could be leached with 96 to 100 percent and 87 percent efficiency from the slime by the chloride and sulfate solutions, respectively. Copper with 90 to 99 percent purity at current efficiency of 42 to 76 percent was obtained from the acid solutions, while copper with 98 to 99 percent purity at current efficiency of 60 to 86 percent was deposited from the ammoniacal baths.