Ion exchange (IX) as a primary production technique has been applied commercially since the 1950s; its application in the uranium industry continues to be widespread and is utilised to a lesser degree in the gold industry. The majority of ion exchange applications, outside of gold and uranium, have primarily been for secondary metal recovery and impurity removal. Newer developments in the application of ion exchange, as well as changes in regulatory requirements, are bringing about the wider use of ion exchange as a primary production technique not only for high value metals such as uranium, platinum group metals (PGM), refractory metals and rare earths, but also looking at base metals such as nickel and copper. The ability to build lower-cost, safer, less polluting processing plants with smaller footprints is driving a greater interest in IX, with the main competitors remaining solvent extraction and carbon-in-pulp/leach. This paper discusses a number of areas where IX has been applied and its advantages compared with other techniques.
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