This paper presents an experimentally-proved hydrometallurgical process for selective metals recovery from the waste-printed circuit boards (WPCBs) using a combination of conventional and time-saving methods: leaching, cementation, precipitation, reduction and electrowinning. According to the results obtained in the laboratory tests, 92.4% Cu, 98.5% Pb, 96.8% Ag and over 99% Au could be selectively leached and recovered using mineral acids: sulfuric, nitric and aqua regia. Problematic tin recovery was addressed with comprehensive theoretical and experimental work, so 55.4% of Sn could be recovered through the novel physical method, which consists of two-step phase separation. Based on the results, an integral hydrometallurgical route for selective base and precious metals recovery though consecutive steps, (i) Cu, (ii) Sn, (iii) Pb and Ag, and (iv) Au, was developed. The route was tested at scaled-up laboratory level, confirming feasibility of the process and efficiencies of metals recovery. According to the obtained results, the proposed hydrometallurgical route represents an innovative and promising method for selective metals recovery from WPCBs, particularly applicable in small scale hydrometallurgical environments, focused on medium and high grade WPCBs recycling.
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