Structural, compositional and mineralogical characterization of carbonatitic copper sulfide: Run of mine, concentrate and tailings

  • Kolela J. Nyembwe
  • Elvis Fosso-KankeuEmail author
  • Frans Waanders
  • Kasongo D. Nyembwe


The aim of this study was to determine the structural, compositional, and mineralogical composition of carbonatitic copper sulfide concentrator plant streams. Three samples, each from a different stream (run of mine (ROM), concentrate, and tailings) of a copper concentrator were characterized using various techniques, including stereomicroscopy, X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in conjunction with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and optical microscopy. The results reveal that each stream possesses its own unique compositional features. Carbonate minerals associated with calcite and dolomite, followed by quartz, remain the major minerals in both the ROM and tails streams. In the ROM stream, chalcopyrite appears to occur as veins within the carbonatite-hosting ore body. Mineral phase mutation was discovered in the tails stream because magnetite formerly identified in the ROM as the primary iron oxide had evolved into hematite. This metamorphosis was likely promoted by the concentration process. The concentration process was effective, upgrading the chalcopyrite content from 2wt% in the ROM stream to 58wt% in the concentrate stream; it was accompanied by bornite (4wt%), anilite (3wt%), and digenite (2.5wt%). In addition, the concentrate stream exhibited properties distinctive from those of the other streams. The FTIR analysis showed the existence of a sulfide group related to the chalcopyrite mineral. Free chalcopyrite grains were observed in the concentrate by SEM analysis, and their mineral presence was supported by the EDS analysis results. All characterization techniques corresponded well with each other regarding the structure, chemistry, and composition of the samples.


chalcopyrite mineral characterization phase mutation concentrate streams 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The authors are thankful to the sponsors from the North-West University and the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and therefore the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto. Lastly, the local South African mining company who participated in this research by providing the samples, the extraction metallurgy laboratory at the University of Johannesburg for equipment utilization, and the chemical engineering department at the North-West University for the support and promotion of this research are also acknowledged.


  1. [1]
    V.J. Martínez-Gómez, J.C. Fuentes-Aceituno, R. Pérez-Garibay, and J.C. Lee, A phenomenological study of the electro-assisted reductive leaching of chalcopyrite, Hydrometallurgy, 164(2016), p. 54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Á. Ruiz-Sánchez and G.T. Lapidus, Study of chalcopyrite leaching from a copper concentrate with hydrogen peroxide in aqueous ethylene glycol media, Hydrometallurgy, 169(2017), p. 192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    B.S. Han, B. Altansukh, K. Haga, Y. Takasaki, and A. Shibayama, Leaching and kinetic study on pressure oxidation of chalcopyrite in H2SO4 solution and the effect of pyrite on chalcopyrite leaching, J. Sustainable Metall., 3(2017), No. 3, p. 528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Y.B. Li, B. Wang, Q. Xiao, C. Lartey, and Q.W. Zhang, The mechanisms of improved chalcopyrite leaching due to mechanical activation, Hydrometallurgy, 173(2017), p. 149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    C.L. Aguirre, N. Toro, N. Carvajal, H. Watling, and C. Aguirre, Leaching of chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) with an imidazolium- based ionic liquid in the presence of chloride, Miner. Eng., 99(2016), p. 60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    R. Chatterjee, S. Chaudhuri, S.K. Kuila, and D. Ghosh, Structural, microstructural, and thermal characterizations of a chalcopyrite concentrate from the Singhbhum shear zone, India, Int. J. Miner. Metall. Mater., 22(2015), No. 3, p. 225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. [7]
    C.O. Beale, Copper in South Africa-Part II, J. South Afr. Inst. Min. Metall., 85(1985), No. 4, p. 109.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    W. Petruk, Applied Mineralogy in the Mining Industry. 1st Ed., Elsevier, Ontario, 2000, p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. [9]
    N.J. Cook, Mineral characterisation of industrial mineral deposits at the Geological Survey of Norway: a short introduction, Bull. Nor. Geol. Unders., 436(2000), p. 189.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    K. Simmons, Soil Sampling, US Environmental Protective Agency (US-EPA), Georgia, 2014, p. 8.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    M.I. Pownceby, C.M. MacRae, and N.C. Wilson, Mineral characterisation by EPMA mapping, Miner. Eng., 20(2007), No. 5, p. 444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. [12]
    Y.Y. Chen, C.N. Zou, M. Mastalerz, S.Y. Hu, C. Gasaway, and X.W. Tao, Applications of micro-fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) in the geological sciences—a review, Int. J. Mol. Sci., 16 (2015), No. 12, p. 30223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    V.M. Izoitko, and Y.N. Shumskaya, Old tailings dump of concentrating plant as a source of raw minerals, [in] Proceedings of the 16th International Mineral Processing Congress, Roma, 2000, p. 14.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    D.I. Groves and N.M. Vielreicher, The Phalaborwa (Palabora) carbonatite-hosted magnetite-copper sulfide deposit, South Africa: an end-member of iron-oxide copper-gold-rare earth element deposit group?, Miner. Deposita, 36(2001), No. 2, p. 189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. [15]
    P.J. Modreski, T.J. Armbrustmacher, and D.B. Hoover. Carbonatite deposits, [in] E.A. du Bray eds., Preliminary Compilation of Descriptive Geo-environmental Mineral Deposit Models, US Geological Survey, Denver, 1996. P. 48.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Y.H. Zhang, Z. Cao, Y.D. Cao, and C.Y. Sun, FTIR studies of xanthate adsorption on chalcopyrite, pentlandite and pyrite surfaces, J. Mol. Struct., 1048 (2013), p. 434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    A.J. Lynch, N.W. Johnson, D.J. McKee, and G.C. Thorne. The behaviour of minerals in sulphide flotation processes, with reference to simulation and control, J. South Afr. Inst. Min. Metall., 74(1974), No. 9, p. 349.Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    V.A. Gorbachev, V.M. Abzalov, and B.P. Yur’ev, Conversion of magnetite to hematite in iron-ore pellets, Steel Transl., 37(2007), No. 4, p. 336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    B. Plavšić, S. Kobe, and B. Orel, Identification of crystallization forms of CaCO3 with FTIR spectroscopy, Kovine Zlitine Tehnol., 33(1999), No. 6, p. 517.Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    M. Al Dabbas, M.Y. Eisa, and W.H. Kadhim, Estimation of gypsum-calcite percentages using a fourier transform infrared spectrophotometer (FTIR), in Alexandria gypsiferous soil-Iraq, Iraqi J. Sci., 55(2014), No. 4B, p. 1916.Google Scholar
  21. [21]
    C.D.C.A. Lopes, P.H.J.O. Limirio, V.R. Novais, and P. Dechichi, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) application chemical characterization of enamel, dentin and bone, Appl. Spectrosc. Rev., 53(2018), No. 9, p. 761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. [22]
    F. Hatert, Transformation sequences of copper sulfides at Vielsalm, Stavelot Massif, Belgium, Can. Mineral., 43(2005), No. 2, p. 623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© University of Science and Technology Beijing and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kolela J. Nyembwe
    • 1
  • Elvis Fosso-Kankeu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frans Waanders
    • 1
  • Kasongo D. Nyembwe
    • 2
  1. 1.Water Pollution Monitoring and Remediation Initiatives Research Group, School of Chemical and Minerals Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringNorth-West UniversityPotchefstroomSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Mining, Metallurgy and Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Built EnvironmentUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations