Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
YAHORAVA, V. and KOTZE, M.. Ion exchange technology for the efficient recovery of precious metals from waste and low-grade streams. J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. [online]. 2014, vol.114, n.2, pp. 173-181. ISSN 2411-9717.
Efficient recovery of precious metals from process solutions is essential for improving process economics. Traditionally, precious metals are relatively effectively recovered from waste streams via precipitation or cementation. However, these approaches have a number of drawbacks, including poor water balance, creation of environmentally unfriendly waste streams, and losses of precious metals. Ion exchange technology is an alternative for the recovery of precious metals from waste or low-grade streams. This technology allows the recovery of the precious metals to extremely low levels (micrograms per litre) with relatively high upgrade ratios from the solution onto the resin without major water balance concerns, while the impact on the environment could be minimized or avoided. Research was conducted on the recovery of platinum group metals and gold from different low-grade and waste streams from one of the precious metals refineries in South Africa by means of ion exchange. Various functionalities and matrices (granular and fibrous) of ion exchange materials were evaluated. The results from these studies indicated that in some cases ion exchange could be very effective for the recovery of precious metals, and that the PGM concentration could be reduced to < 1 mg/L. The upgrading ratios of the various PGMs onto the specific fibres were relatively high for the specific streams evaluated, which might in some cases justify incineration of the loaded material instead of stripping and recycling the adsorbent. The cost of direct incineration for one of the waste streams tested would be less than 1% of the value of the PGMs recovered. However, the adsorbent has to be carefully selected and the process design optimized for each specific stream.
Keywords : PGMs and Au refining; precious metals; waste streams; low-grade streams; ion exchange; resin; fibre; recovery.