Development of a flowsheet incorporating cyanidation, CIP, CCD and the SART process to treat flotation tailings from a Mexican copper mine
A flowsheet has been developed to treat the flotation tailings from a copper mine in Mexico to recover gold and silver by cyanidation and carbon-in-pulp (CIP). The plant will treat ~15,000 t/day of a 60:40 blend of current flotation tailings and the mine’s historic tailings. The tailings also contain a significant amount of cyanide-soluble copper, and the economic viability of the project is strengthened by recovering most of the copper and cyanide associated with this process. The solution and solid phases in the CIP tailings will be separated in a counter current decantation (CCD) circuit and the CCD solution overflow will be treated by a SART Process. Copper precipitates as a salable copper sulphide product in the SART Process and the cyanide that is associated with the copper complex is regenerated as free cyanide. After SART, a portion of the SART product solution will be recycled to leach to reuse the free cyanide, while the remaining solution will be used as wash water in the CCD circuit. Incorporation of the SART Process in the flowsheet allows the CIP circuit to be operated aggressively as a gold plant, which means most of the silver in solution passes through CIP to SART. Silver co-precipitates with copper in SART and is recovered very efficiently with the copper sulphide by-product. Incorporation of SART also allows the leach and CIP circuits to be operated with relatively high levels of free cyanide, which enhances silver leach kinetics and helps keep copper from loading onto the carbon in CIP. The flowsheet was developed in the laboratory and successfully demonstrated in a fully-integrated pilot plant in 2018.