Solid waste from the copper smelting industry may be harmful if disposed of in the environment, but it may be a valuable resource if metals can be recovered. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the acid bioleaching of metals from a sample of final smelter slag and the recovery of metals from the leach liquors. Bioleaching was tested in a continuously stirred tank reactor (CSTR) at 20–25 °C with 5% pulp density (particle size 75% <47 μm). The yields of metal solubilization after 29 days of contact were 41% Fe, 62% Cu, 35% Zn and 44% Ni. Metals were precipitated in a separate CSTR by titrating the leach liquors with sulfide-rich effluent from a sulfate-reducing fluidized-bed reactor (FBR) (25 °C) to desired pH values. Over 98% of the Cu precipitated at pH ⩾ 2.8 and over 99% of the Zn precipitated at pH ⩾ 3.9. The precipitation of Ni and Fe required higher pH values and was less efficient than Cu and Zn recovery. In addition, bulk precipitation of metals was also tested by feeding the leach liquor directly to another sulfate-reducing FBR. In order to reduce its toxicity and maintain stable sulfate reduction performance in the FBR, the leach liquor had to be diluted ten-fold and the pH adjusted from 0.6 to approximately 4.
- Waste processing