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584 FLOTATION CHEMISTRY

Medium Sulfur (510% S), High Sulfur (1030% S),


Refractory, and Mixed OxideSulfide Gold Ores

CRUSHING
CIRCUIT

Crushed Ore Water

GRINDING CIRCUIT INCLUDING GRAVITY CONCENTRATION


OF COARSE GOLD AND/OR FLASH FLOTATION

Water
Mixed OxideSulfide Medium or High Sulfide Medium or High Sulfide
Ores with Refractory with Refractory Sulfides with Refractory Sulfides
Sulfides and Low Tellurides and High Tellurides

BULK
GOLDTELLURIDE
PRECYANIDATION SULFIDETELLURIDE
FLOTATION
FLOTATION

Flotation Flotation Tailing Au-Te


FILTER Concentrate Tailing Concentrate

Gold Filter Discard SPECIAL


Solution Cake ROAST TREATMENT

To Gold Calcine Elemental Elemental


Recovery Gold Tellurium

REPULP AND CYANIDATION SULFIDE FLOTATION


ACTIVATION

Gold Tailing
Sulfide Tailing
FLOTATION Concentrate
Discard

Concentrate Tailing POST-


CYANIDATION

ROAST Discard Gold Residue


Calcine
Calcine

CYANIDATION
CYANIDATION

Gold Residue
Gold Tailing

FIGURE 2 Flowsheet for the recovery of gold from various types of refractory gold ores

gold-pyrite-arsenopyrite concentrate. This concentrate was roasted to liberate the gold from
the sulfides and tellurides and then cyanided to extract the gold. The tailings were sent to a
tailing dump or used as underground fill.
Medium- or high-sulfide ores with low telluride content were ground and then floated
with xanthate or other collectors to give a bulk sulfidetelluride concentrate, and the tailing
was discarded. The bulk flotation concentrate was roasted in Edwards roasters or early versions
FLOTATION OF PRECIOUS METALS AND THEIR MINERALS 585

of fluosolids roasters, and the calcine was cyanided to extract the gold. After cyanidation,
the calcine was stockpiled in special residue dumps.
At Emperor Gold Mining Company Ltd. (Vatukoula, Fiji), an ore containing medium
or high levels of pyrite and arsenopyrite containing refractory gold, together with high gold
telluride levels, was treated as indicated in Figure 2. After crushing and fine grinding, the ore
was floated with Teric 407 frother alone to produce a high-grade goldgold telluride concen-
trate (Colbert 1980a). This was treated by chemical oxidation in a hydrometallurgical plant to
produce elemental tellurium and gold (Colbert 1980b). The tailing from gold-tellurium
flotation was then floated with a mixture of xanthates to recover the refractory sulfides
present. This concentrate was roasted and the gold recovered from the calcine by cyanidation.
Gold-Containing Base Metal Ores. Gold-containing base metal ores include gold-copper
sulfide-pyrite ores, gold-uranium ores, gold-stibnite ores, copper-lead-zinc-gold-silver ores,
and various others. Treatment of such ores requires relatively complex circuits to recover
coarse gold by gravity concentration and/or flash flotation in the grinding circuit or else-
where, and differential flotation to recover gold-containing base metal concentrates. Not all
of these problems are discussed here, but treatment of auriferous copper sulfide ores is illus-
trated in Figure 3 and discussed in the following paragraph. Note that the overall process
contains two separate flotation circuits: one for flotation of the ore to obtain a copper-gold
flotation concentrate for smelting and copper-gold separation; and one for slag treatment to
recover entrained copper and matte particles for return to the smelting section.
Auriferous copper sulfides typically contain chalcopyrite and other copper sulfides, and
pyrite. The gold occurs as native gold, gold in the copper sulfides, and gold in pyrite. Rela-
tively coarse and fine gold can be recovered in the grinding circuit by a combination of grav-
ity concentration and flash flotation. The auriferous copper sulfide minerals are then
recovered by a rougher-scavenger-cleaner flotation circuit using conventional reagents such
as a xanthate and an MIBC frother at pH 10 or more to depress pyrite. Any gold in the
pyrite is normally lost as it is usually at too low a level to pay for its recovery, depending on
the grade and the amount of pyrite present.
At Bisbee, Arizona (United States), and Mount Morgan, Queensland (Australia), how-
ever, some parts of the ore body or some fraction of the ground ore were treated by bulk flo-
tation to produce a concentrate assaying as little as 10% Cu and reasonable gold levels. At
New Occidental Gold Mines N.L., Cobar, Australia, ( J.T. Woodcock, personal communica-
tion) a gold-chalcopyrite-pyrrhotite ore in which most of the gold was in the sulfides was
treated by bulk flotation at natural pH (about 7) using sec-butyl xanthate as a collector and
cresylic acid as a frother to give a bulk sulfide concentrate assaying 18%22% Cu, depending
on the proportion of chalcopyrite and pyrrhotite in the ore. The gold content was variable.
Most chalcopyrite-pyrite ores yield a concentrate containing 25%27% Cu, but when
bornite is present, concentrate grades can be 30%35% Cu. When chalcocite or covellite are
present, concentrate grades can be as high as 50% Cu because of the relatively high copper
content of these minerals. The gold content in such ores is variable and ranges from nil to
several grams per tonne.
As shown in Figure 3, copper flotation concentrates are commonly treated by smelting
to give a matte, waste gases, and a slag. The matte is converted to blister copper, which is
treated further to yield pure copper and gold. The slag contains small particles of metallic
copper and matte; this is treated by crushing and grinding, and flotation with xanthate and a
frother to give a concentrate for recycling to the smelter.