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A review of the AARL process for the elution of gold from activated carbon


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Author Davidson RJ and Schmidt CG


Parameters affecting gold elution using the AARL process are reviewed and critically analyzed in an attempt to optimise metallurgical efficiency and minimise costs in both current and future carbon adsorption operations. Such factors as acid washing, column geometry, elution temperatures and pretreatment reagents are discussed together with eluant water quality and eluate flowrates. Hot acid washing of carbon prior to gold elution has many benefits. Besides improving elution efficiency when eluting with regional water, a hot acid treatment preheats the carbon without causing any gold leakage. Laboratory data indicated that hot acid washing reduces the mass loss of carbon during thermal regeneration. The eluate going to either zinc precipitation or electrowinning is also relatively free of troublesome impurities (organic contaminants and ferrocyanides in particular). Because of the chromatographic character of the AARL elution where an ionic strength gradient is used to inhibit the readsorption of gold, column geometry plays a significant role. While practical considerations and capital costs may restrain the length of the elution column, high length/diameter ratios are advocated in order to promote the plug flow of column eluate. From both a metallurgical and costing viewpoint, the two significant factors affect- ing the AARL gold elution are temperature and cyanide addition. High temperature and high reagent additions within prescribed limits will improve metallurgical efficiencies, but a balance between energy and reagent costs is required in order to minimise overall elution costs. As pretreatment reagents constitute a considerable portion of the total elution costs, both the addition and consumption of sodium cyanide must be carefully considered. Lower cyanide additions may be effective in certain instances, but the more practical use of 0,6 bed volume of a 2-3 per cent NaCN reagent containing 2 per cent NaOH is advocated. This is equivalent to an addition of 20-30 kg NaCN and 20 kg NaOH per ton carbon Treated.