Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Most copper/cobalt ores from the Central African Copperbelt contain sulphidic compounds, which are not extractable in direct leaching. Roasting provides the possibility to transfer the valuable components into leachable compounds. In an operation window defined by temperature and off-gas composition it is possible to selectively oxidize iron sulphides to haematite and copper/cobalt sulphides to sulphates. Selective sulphating of the valuable minerals is an important condition for the subsequent leaching stage. The dissolved copper and cobalt are recovered by solvent extraction and electrowinning. This technology has been part of an established process for many decades. The concentrates from recent projects on the Copperbelt have lower sulphur contents, and frequently higher copper contents, than those from older projects. The paper shows the consequences of this trend for plant operation and explains useful counter actions by means of case studies. Autothermal combustion is ensured even at very low sulphur contents. Off-gas treatment has so far been based on SO2 removal through sulphuric acid production. The generated acid is used to make up acid losses in the hydrometallurgical plant section. This well-proven process combination is still the preferred route if the feed sulphur content is high enough; however, some cases may require different off-gas cleaning concepts without compromising on clean air quality. Roasting in a fluid-bed furnace remains the core of the technology. Fluid-bed roasters are easy to operate and provide an excellent control of the calcine quality. Different feeding and heat-recovery systems are used to provide a tailor-made solution for each project. Outotec built it first sulphatizing roaster in Zambia about 30 years ago. At that time, the roasting of metal sulphides was already one of the main technologies in the company. Outotec has developed roasting solutions for copper, gold, zinc, lead, molybdenum, and pyrite ores. The continuously expanded and upgraded research facilities provide an excellent basis for developing sustainable, energy-efficient, and economic solutions for copper and cobalt production in Africa.
Keywords : sulphating roasting; copper concentrate; copper-cobalt concentrate; copper sulphate; copper-cobalt sulphate; chalcosite; chalcopyrite; Copperbelt.