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Minerals 2018, 8(9), 383; https://doi.org/10.3390/min8090383

Towards Greener Lixiviants in Value Recovery from Mine Wastes: Efficacy of Organic Acids for the Dissolution of Copper and Arsenic from Legacy Mine Tailings

1
Camborne School of Mines, College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn TR10 9FE, Cornwall, UK
2
School of Engineering, Cardiff University, Queen’s Buildings, The Parade, Cardiff CF24 3AA, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 June 2018 / Revised: 26 July 2018 / Accepted: 31 July 2018 / Published: 3 September 2018
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Abstract

In many cases, it may be possible to recover value (e.g., metals, land) from legacy mine wastes and tailings when applying leaching-based remediation such as dump/heap leaching or in-vessel soil washing. However, if the lixiviant used has the potential to cause environmental damage upon leakage, then this approach will have limited practicability due to actual or perceived risk. This study focused on comparing the efficacy of organic acids, namely methanesulfonic (CH3SO3H) and citric (C6H8O7) acid, with mineral acids, namely sulfuric (H2SO4) and hydrochloric (HCl) acid, for the dissolution of Cu and As from mine tailings. The advantage of the former acid type is the fact that its conjungate base is readily biodegradable which should thereby limit the environmental impact of accidental spill/leakage (particularly in non-carbonate terrain) and might also be directly useful in capture/recovery systems coupled with percolation leaching (e.g., as an electron donor in sulphate-reducing bioreactors). The operational factors acid concentration, leaching time, mixing intensity and solid–liquid ratio, were tested in order to determine the optimum conditions for metal dissolution. HCl, H2SO4, and CH3SO3H typically exhibited a relatively similar leaching ability for As despite their different pKa values, with dissolutions of 58%, 56%, 55%, and 44% recorded for H2SO4, HCl, CH3SO3H, and C6H8O7, respectively, after 48 h when using 1 M concentrations and a 10:1 L:S ratio. For the same conditions, H2SO4 was generally the most effective acid type for Cu removal with 38% compared to 32%, 29% and 22% for HCl, CH3SO3H and C6H8O7. As such, CH3SO3H and C6H8O7 demonstrated similar performances to strong mineral acids and, as such, hold great promise as environmentally compatible alternatives to conventional mineral acids for metal recovery from ores and waste. View Full-Text
Keywords: valorisation; mine waste; soil washing; heap leaching; dump leaching; mine drainage; remediation valorisation; mine waste; soil washing; heap leaching; dump leaching; mine drainage; remediation
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Crane, R.A.; Sapsford, D.J. Towards Greener Lixiviants in Value Recovery from Mine Wastes: Efficacy of Organic Acids for the Dissolution of Copper and Arsenic from Legacy Mine Tailings. Minerals 2018, 8, 383.

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