Strictly speaking leaching is less a typical mineral processing technique than a hydrometallurgical process. Even so, for gold leaching it can be applied to run-of-mine ore or is integrated in to the other mineral processing measures (e.g. immediately after comminution and gravity separation or flotation). As a result leaching is usually considered to be part of mineral processing. Even though other minerals may be leached and lixiviants other than cyanide are used (e.g. salt might be leached or dissolved with water, copper may be leached with sulphuric acid), as a result of the high toxicity of cyanide and also the public concern about its use within the mining sector, this chapter will focus on the use of cyanide in the leaching of gold. Even so, it must be noted that cyanide may well also be used within the flotation of sulphides, as a depressant for pyrite (FeS2). The following text on the use of cyanide for the leaching of gold is taken from the International cyanide management code for the manufacture, transport and use of cyanide in the production of gold unless otherwise stated.
The aim of ore preparation is to present the ore to the lixiviant (the aqueous cyanide resolution) within a kind that will make certain optimum financial recovery of your gold. The initial step in ore preparation is crushing and grinding, which reduces the particle size on the ore and liberates the gold for recovery.
Ore that consists of totally free gold may possibly not yield a sufficiently high recovery by implies of cyanide leaching only, and may possibly require a gravity recovery process exactly where the free of charge gold is recovered before the remainder with the gold is topic to cyanide leaching.
Gold typically occurs at extremely low concentrations in ores, i.e. much less than 10 g/t or 0.001 %. At these concentrations the use of hydrometallurgical extraction processes, i.e. according to aqueous chemistry, are the only economically viable procedures of extracting the gold from the ore. Normally hydrometallurgical gold recovery involves a leaching step through which the gold is dissolved in an aqueous medium, followed by separation in the gold bearing remedy from the residues or adsorption from the gold onto activated carbon and finally gold recovery either by precipitation or elution and electrowinning.
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