Comparison of chemical and biological leaching of sulfide tailings
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Aalto University
VTT, Waste Technology and Recycling
Jari Aramaa   

Aalto University, Department of Materials Science. P.O. Box 16200, FI 00076 Aalto, Espoo, Finland
Publication date: 2013-06-01
Physicochem. Probl. Miner. Process. 2013;49(2):607–620
Sulphidic tailings from Finnish Hitura nickel mine and Pyhäsalmi multi-metal mine were leached using sulphuric acid and bioleached. The aim was to recover minor amounts of valuable Cu, Ni, Zn and Mn. Both tailings consisted mainly of iron and magnesium-containing minerals and acid neutralizing minerals. The solution after chemical leaching tests contained mostly iron and magnesium, in Hitura up to 11 g/dm3 Fe and 38 g/dm3 Mg while in Pyhäsalmi 8–9 g/dm3 Fe and 4 g/dm3 Mg. Amount of these metals was 20–100-fold larger than amount of valuable metals, which were typically 100-300 mg/dm3. Problems in chemical leaching were high consumption of acid and poor selectivity. Bioleaching using iron and sulphur oxidizing bacteria was more selective towards the valuable metals. Both in leaching and bioleaching the high concentration of iron and magnesium in solution will make metals recovery challenging.