Removal of Pyrrhotite from High-Sulphur Tailings Utilising Non-Oxidative H2SO4 Leaching

Jarno Mäkinen (Corresponding Author), Grzegorz Pietek, Ville Miettinen, Mohammad Khoshkhoo, Jan Eric Sundkvist, Päivi Kinnunen

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Tailings are a residual material stream produced in the mineral processing of ores. They may contain a major sulphide content that increases the risk of acid rock drainage (ARD) but may also host valuable metals. Tank bioleaching is a technically viable method to treat sulphide tailings. However, a significant pyrrhotite content may cause increased acid and oxidant consumption and result in longer retention times in a bioleaching process. In this work, non-oxidative H2SO4 leaching of pyrrhotite is studied for high-sulphur tailings, both as a pre-treatment method and to consider the recovery possibilities of Fe and S. Continuous mode validation tests, conducted at 90 °C, pH 1.0 and 106 min retention time, resulted in a complete pyrrhotite dissolution with 427 kg/t acid consumption (as 95% H2SO4). Unwanted dissolution of Ni and Zn was taking place with a leaching yield of 21.5% and 13.5%, respectively, while Co and Cu dissolution was negligible. The continuous mode tests signalled that by shortening the retention time, Ni dissolution could be dramatically decreased. The non-oxidative pyrrhotite leaching produced a H2S-rich gas stream, which could be utilised in later metals’ recovery processes after bioleaching to precipitate (CoNi)S, ZnS and CuS products. The non-oxidative pyrrhotite leaching also produced a FeSO4 solution, with approximately 20 g/L of Fe.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1610
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cobalt
  • leaching
  • nickel
  • pyrite
  • pyrrhotite


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