Kinetics of the ferric sulphate leaching of sphalerite and sphalerite/pyrite mixtures : a study of the chemical leaching of base metal minerals under conditions similar to that of bio-leaching by thiobacilli

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The work presented in this dissertation is an investigation of-the ferric leaching of zinc from sphalerite. A further aspect of this study was an investigation of the influence of pyrite on the dissolution rate of sphalerite due to possible galvanic interactions. This study is one component of a larger study of the sub-processes involved in the bioleaching of sulphide minerals in which the ferric leaching of the sulphide mineral is assumed to be a chemical step with the bacteria oxidising ferrous iron to ferric iron and elemental sulphur, if formed, to sulphate. The literature showed that two types of model have been used to describe the ferric leaching of the sphalerite. The first type was a shrinking-particle model in which there action was described by first order kinetics or an electrochemical mechanism. The second type included a mass transfer resistance in terms of a shrinking-core model described by half-order kinetics or a decaying diffusion coefficient. All four of these models were tested for their ability to predict published data for the ferric leaching of sphalerite. It was found that the models fitted the data for the initial period of a leach up to conversions of about 50%. However, no one of the models was found to be successful in predicting the data for prolonged leaching to high conversions.

Bibliography: pages 98-105.