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Recovery of zinc from sulphide flotation tailings


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Author Chouzadjian K, Filmer AO and Kelley BC


The chemical oxidation kinetics of sphalerite by Fe(III) was studied at various temperatures and size fractions in sulphate media. The kinetics of Zn extraction followed a pore diffusion control mechanism with an apparent activation energy of 54-58 kJ mole. This figure, although high for a pore diffusion control process, is consistent with other studies carried out in sulphate media. An empirical statistical model, relating the extraction time to % Zn extraction, average particle size and temperature, is described by log 1 = 12.22 – 0.017% Ext. – 1.76 log D Av t – 2954 T Parallel studies were also carried out investigating the biological oxidation of sphalerite utilizing the acidophilic autotrophic bacterium Thiobacillus Ferroxidans. The effect of such kinetic parameters as pulp density, particle size and Fe(III) on bacterial growth rate and consequently zinc extraction rate, were studied and where appropriate, optimum conditions for bacterial growth were specified. Based on the results of chemical and biological leaching studies, it was apparent that rapid zinc extraction from sphalerite was predominently due to oxidation by Fe(III). The biological oxidation process catalyses the oxidation and regeneration of Fe(III). The proposed combined chemical-biological leach system was simulated in semi continuous fashion. The sphalerite oxidation rates obtained in this system were similar to that predicted by the chemical leach empirical model. 1. Senior Research Metallurgist, CRA Research, Boolaroo, N.S.W. 2. Group Leader-Hydrometallurgy, CRA Research, Boolaroo, N.S.W. 3. Senior Research Scientist, Biotechnology Australia, Roseville, N.S.W. 4. Senior Experimental Officer, Biotechnology Australia, Roseville, N.S.W.