Investigation of Mercury Reduction in Gold Stripping Process at Elevated Temperature
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Mercury is present in many gold ores. By processing these ores, there is a potential of emitting mercury to the environment. Carbon regeneration kiln stacks have been observed as one of the primary source of mercury emission into the atmosphere. Before it is recycled back into the carbon in leach (CIL) or carbon in columns (CIC), carbon used in the gold extraction process needs to be reactivated thermally. Emission of mercury can be minimized by keeping the mercury left in the carbon low before it goes to the carbon regeneration kiln stacks. The objective of this study is establishing the optimum elution conditions of mercury cyanide from loaded carbon (which includes the eluent, concentration, temperature and elution time) with respect to gold stripping. Several methods such as acid washing (UNR-100, HCl or ethanol/UNR-100) were investigated prior to the stripping process. Furthermore, conventional pressurized Zadra and modified Zadra were also studied with regards to mercury concentration in the solution and vapor state as well as maximizing the gold stripping from industrial loaded carbon. 7% UNR-100 acid washing of loaded carbon at 80oC was able to wash out approximately 90% of mercury while maintaining the gold adsorption on the carbon (selective washing). The addition of alcohol in the UNR-100 acid washing solution was able to enhance mercury washing from 90% to 97%. Furthermore, mercury stripping using conventional pressurized (cyanide-alkaline) Zadra was best performed at 80oC (minimal amount of mercury reduced and volatilized) whereas using the same process only 40% of gold was stripped, which makes this process not viable. When alcohol was added to the stripping solution, at 80oC, 95% of gold was detected in the solution while keeping the reduction and volatilization of mercury low. The outcome of this study provides a better understanding of mercury behavior during the acid washing and stripping processes so that the risk of mercury exposure and contamination can be minimized while maximizing the gold overall recovery.