Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
FULS, H.F and PETERSEN, J. Evaluation of processing options for the treatment of zinc sulphide concentrates at Skorpion Zinc. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2013, vol.113, n.5, pp. 00-00. ISSN 2411-9717.
Skorpion Zinc, an integrated zinc mine and refinery located in the south of Namibia, has a production capacity of 150 000 t/a of special high grade (SHG) zinc. The Skorpion zinc oxide resource will be depleted by 2017. Extensive exploration drilling for additional zinc oxides was conducted without success. With the abundant availability of zinc sulphide concentrates regionally (Black Mountain and Gamsberg in the Northern Cape or Rosh Pinah Zinc and new deposits in the Rosh Pinah region) the life of the operation can be extended by processing of zinc sulphide concentrates. The leach kinetics of zinc sulphides is vastly slower than for oxides, preventing the processing of zinc sulphides in the existing process under current conditions, and Skorpion Zinc faces the challenge to identify a suitable zinc sulphide treatment process that can be integrated with the existing plant. Various zinc sulphide processing options were identified through an extensive literature search and non-viable options were eliminated. Mass and energy balances were established for potential options and an economic evaluation (including capital and operating cost estimation) was conducted to identify a suitable process. It is concluded that ferric leaching of sphalerite in a sulphate medium under atmospheric or pressure leach conditions are suitable processes for Skorpion Zinc. These processes present advantages over all other zinc processing options when elemental sulphur is preferred as the final deportment for sulphide sulphur. Both these processes can be integrated into the existing refinery and will be able to process concentrates with a wide composition range.
Keywords : zinc processing; pressure leach; atmospheric leach; zinc sulphide.