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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 0038-223X

J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.110 n.4 Johannesburg Apr. 2010




Acid leaching of heavy metals from bentonite clay, used in the cleaning of acid mine drainage



F. Enslin; L. van der Mey; F. Waanders

School of Chemical and Minerals Engineering, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa




Heavy metals and sulphates in acid mine drainage (AMD) can be adsorbed onto bentonite clay, leaving clean water and a heavy metal loaded clay precipitate as products. Due to the toxicity of heavy metals, the clay could not be disposed of safely in the past. A method was thus required to remove the heavy metal content from the clay. Acid leaching was proposed to liberate the heavy metals from the loaded clay. Sulphuric, nitric and hydrochloric acid were considered as lixiviants. Loaded clay samples were leached over a range of pH values from 1 to 3.5 to identify an optimum leaching condition. From the results it was found that metals can be recovered from loaded bentonite clay by means of acid leaching and the optimum pH for heavy metal liberation was found to be 2.5, with uranium as an exception, being optimally leached at a pH of 3. This allows for the possibility of selective leaching. Furthermore, X-ray diffraction analyses indicated that the clay structure did not deteriorate significantly during acid leaching, suggesting that the bentonite could be reused. The treatment of AMD with bentonite clay, and subsequent acid leaching of the clay, is a sustainable solution, and current outcomes could possibly lead to industrial implementation of the process during water purifying and metal recovery from waste streams.

Keywords: Acid mine drainage, bentonite, heavy metals



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Paper written on project work carried out in partial fulfilment of B.Eng. (Chem. Eng.)

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