Carbon-based catalysts can assist the oxidative leaching of sulfide minerals. Recently, we presented that AF 5 Lewatit®
is among the catalysts with superior enargite oxidation capacity and capability to collect elemental sulfur on its surface. Herein, the effect of acid pre-treatment of the AF 5 catalyst was studied on the AF 5 surface, to further enhance the catalytic properties of AF 5. The AF 5 catalyst was pretreated by hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and sulfuric acid. The results showed that the acid treatment drastically changes the surface properties of AF 5. For instance, the concentration of quinone-like functional groups, which are ascribed to the catalytic properties of AF 5, is 45.4% in the sulfuric acid pre-treatment AF 5 and only 29.8% in the hydrochloric acid-treated AF 5. Based on the C 1s X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) results the oxygenated carbon is 30.6% in the sulfuric acid-treated AF 5, 29.2% in the nitric acid-treated AF 5 and 28.3% in the hydrochloric acid-treated AF 5. The nitric acid pre-treated AF 5 resulted in the highest copper recovery during the oxidative enargite leaching process, recovering 98.8% of the copper. The sulfuric acid-treated AF 5 recovered 97.1% of the enargite copper into the leach solution. Among different leaching media and pre-treatment the lowest copper recovery was achieved with the HCl pre-treated AF 5 which was 88.6%. The pre-treatment of AF 5 with acids also had modified its elemental sulfur adsorption capacity, where the sulfur adsorption on AF 5 was increased from 30.9% for the HCl treated AF 5 to 51.1% for the sulfuric acid-treated AF 5.
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