The purification of hydrometallurgical process solutions by Fe(III) precipitation is a common and large-scale industrial operation. This step is notorious for valuable metal loss occurring with the iron precipitation product, which is usually directed to tailings. In this study, factors affecting Fe(III) precipitation and associated copper loss were studied in synthetic process solutions using statistical methods. The variables studied were: Initial acid concentration, retention time, seed addition, and initial Fe(III), Cu(II), and chloride concentrations. The importance of each variable and its interaction effects were studied against two responses, i.e., percent of Fe(III) precipitated as hematite and percent of Cu lost to solids. The results showed that a combination of high acid and moderate seeding was required to simultaneously achieve high proportions of Fe(III) precipitated as hematite and lower copper loss to the precipitates. High acid concentrations create low supersaturation for Fe(III), which minimizes the consequences of homogeneous nucleation and favors particle growth.
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