Leaching of Pyrrhotite from Nickel Concentrate
Abstract: Non-oxidative acid leaching of pyrrhotite from Kevitsa’s Ni-concentrate and methods to recover by-products, have been investigated. Selective dissolution of pyrrhotite (Fe1-xS, 0<x<0.25) can enrich the content of the valuable metals, such as Ni and Co, in the final concentrate and will reduce the amount of Fe and S sent to the smelters. The pyrometallurgical smelting of leached concentrate will thus give less formation of smelter by-products in form of slag and SO2. The leaching was studied through an experimental design plan with parameter settings of 38.8% to 57.8% H2SO4 and temperatures from 60 to 100°C. The best results were obtained in experiments carried out at the lower experimental range. Leaching at 60°C with an initial acid concentration of 38.8% H2SO4 was found sufficient to selectively dissolve most of the pyrrhotite; leaving an enriched solid residue. A QEMSCAN analysis of the solid residue confirmed that most of the pyrrhotite had been dissolved and showed that pentlandite was still the main Ni-mineral. Chemical assays showed that more than 95% of the Ni, Co, and Cu remained in the final residue. The utilized leaching process generates by-products, in the form of large quantities of Fe2+ in solution and gaseous H2S. To recover Fe2+, crystallization of iron(ii) sulfate (FeSO4∙nH2O) from leach solution through cooling have been studied. The crystallized crystals were further dehydrated into the monohydrate (FeSO4∙H2O) through a strong sulfuric acid treatment (80%H2SO4). XRD analysis confirmed that FeSO4∙H2O was the main phase in the final crystals, and a chemical analysis showed a Fe content of about 30%, 1.5% Mg, 0.4% Ca, and 0.2% Ni. The possibility to leach the concentrate by circulating the acidic solution from the crystallization stage has been tested. The recirculation of the solution showed no negative effects, as the recoveries of elements and chemical assays of the final solid residue were found to be similar to the obtained assay when the concentrate was leached in a fresh solution.
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