Leaching, which is described as the extraction of soluble constituents from a solid by means of a solvent, is an important separation technique in the refining of precious metals from their matte. It is, therefore, important to investigate the extraction behavior of metals from the matte, which is the focus of this study. This study reports the influence of concentration of the solvent (ammonia), leaching temperature, leaching time, and pH on the recovery of nickel and copper from the matte. The elemental composition analysis of the matte indicated that it contains 23% copper, 37% nickel and 1.1% ferrous compound. The analysis also showed that the major mineral phases present in the matte were heazlewoodite (Ni3S2), chalcocite (Cu 2S), djurleite (Cu1.9S), and nickel alloy. The leaching parameters studied were concentration of ammonia (1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 M), leaching time (0-270 min, at 15 min sampling interval), leaching temperatures (50°C, 60°C, and 70°C), and pH (9.3-11.2). The results obtained revealed that the recovery of nickel and copper from the matte was greatly influenced by the concentration of ammonia, leaching time, leaching temperature, and pH. It was established from this study that the highest dissolution of nickel and copper was obtained at 3 M and 2 M ammonia concentration, respectively. The results also revealed that a decrease in the pH of the solution resulted in a decrease in both nickel and copper recovery, with maximum leaching time of 270 min. It was observed that less than 50% of both nickel and copper was leachable due to the presence of metal alloys. The analyses of the results also showed that as the leaching temperature increased from 50°C to 60°C, the amount of nickel and copper that was recovered from the matte significantly increased. However, there was reduction in the amount of nickel and copper recovered from the matte as the temperature was increased from 60°C to 70°C, due to loss of ammonia by evaporation. The shrinking core model was used to explain the behavior of the recovery of these metals at different temperatures, and both metals were found to be favored by diffusion controlled reaction.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Chemical Engineering