Leaching of a pyrite-based ore containing copper using sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide


The oxidation of sulfide-based ores is industrially relevant as it facilitates the extraction of valuable metals and eliminates undesired elements from an ore. Even though oxidation can be done thermally (pyrometallurgy), solution-based (hydrometallurgical) methods are currently sought as they represent a more sustainable option. Here, the leaching of a sulfide ore (32% Fe, 2% Cu) is investigated using a mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide (0.15 M H2SO4 and 0.5 M H2O2), in proportions forming a slurry 10% w/w. The leaching process is found to occur in two stages, the first corresponding to an exothermic, peroxide-mediated dissolution, and the second corresponding to an acid-mediated reaction, which appears to be thermoneutral. Control experiments performed with only peroxide confirm that this oxidant is involved in the first stage of the dissolution process. The leaching process leads to copper and iron dissolution (15% and 5%, respectively), as determined using atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS). The mass of pyrite dissolved is estimated from AAS measurements and, from the stoichiometry of the peroxide-mediated dissolution reaction, it is found that ~ 80% of the peroxide participates in the dissolution, with the other 20% being decomposed, in a reaction catalyzed by ferric (Fe+3) ions produced during the first stage of the dissolution.

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Project funded by Peru´s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (FONDECYT-CONCYTEC) and the British Embassy in Lima [Contract numbers 154-2015 and 002-2016]. Key equipment for the conduction of experiments was acquired through a grant from the UNESCO/IUPAC/Phosagro Partnership for Green Chemistry for Life (Contract 4500245048). Ing. Luis Loaiza (Volcan Cía Minera) is acknowledged for the generous donation of ore samples and for useful discussions. The support provided by Ms. Flor Granda, Ms. Karinna Visurraga, Ms. Melissa Jacome and Mr. Renzo Portilla (Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología—UTEC) and of Mrs. Yorsel Mayhua and Prof. Jorge Castillo (TECSUP) in the development of experiments is greatly appreciated. D. S.-M., G. P.-G. and J. T.-H. were supported through the project-based undergraduate program “Proyectos Interdisciplinarios - Vivir la Ingeniería” at Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología—UTEC.

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Correspondence to Juan Carlos F. Rodriguez-Reyes.

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Salas-Martell, D., Pareja-Guzman, G., Tello-Hijar, J. et al. Leaching of a pyrite-based ore containing copper using sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Int J Ind Chem (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40090-020-00212-2

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  • Hydrometallurgy
  • Leaching
  • Copper
  • Oxidative dissolution
  • Mineral processing