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The pilot plant demonstration of a novel hydrometallurgical route for the processing of low grade base metal sulphidic mattes


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Author Verbaan B and Keys NJ


The so-called COMAT process provides a method for leaching low grade sulphide mattes in an acidic ferric sulphate medium in such a way that non ferrous base metals such as Ni,Cu and Co are substantially all dissolved; the concentration of residual acid and dissolved iron remaining in the leaching solution is low, and a large portion of the sulphide sulphur is converted to elemental sulphur. Thus the quantity of neutralising agents required to remove residual acid and dissolved iron from the leach solution prior to subsequent recovery of the dissolved base metals is greatly reduced. The leach residue and iron precip- itate report in a readily filterable form. In this paper results obtained on a pilot plant scale are presented for the leaching of a typical low grade matte in the manner describ- ed above; for the solvent extraction and elec- trowinning of copper, and for the removal of residual acid, copper and iron from the copper solvent extraction raffinate. Processes tested on a laboratory scale for the further recovery of cobalt and nickel by solvent extraction and electrowinning, and for the recovery of sulphuric acid and ammonium hydr- oxide from the dissolved ammonium sulphate salt contained in the final plant effluent, are also briefly described.