Acid leaching and rheological behaviour of a siliceous goethitic nickel laterite ore: Influence of particle size and temperature
School of Engineering
This study investigates the isothermal, batch, H2SO4 acid leaching behaviour of siliceous goethitic (SG) nickel (Ni) laterite ore and its links to pulp rheology. Specifically, the effect of feed ore particle size (−0.2 vs −2.0 mm), leaching temperature (70 vs 95 °C) and pulp rheology on Ni and pay metal, cobalt (Co) extraction kinetics and yield was studied for 4 h on 40 wt.% solid dispersions at pH 1. The leaching behaviour was distinctly incongruent, reflecting the disproportionate proliferation of major gangue mineral’s constituent elements (e.g., Fe, Al, Mg, Na, Si) alongside Ni and Co in the pregnant leach solution. At 70 °C, Ni/Co extraction rates were notably lower (<20%) in contrast with 95 °C where a significant increase in Ni/Co extraction to 78/77% and 74/77%, respectively, for the −0.2 and −2.0 mm feeds occurred. The slurries displayed a non-Newtonian, shear thinning Bingham plastic rheological behaviour of which the viscosity and shear yield stress increased markedly in the course of 4 h leaching. The pulp viscosity and shear yield stress were greater at lower temperature than at higher temperature and they were also greater in slurries with finer than coarser feed particles. The dynamic pulp rheology, however, had no marked effect on the overall Ni/Co extraction rates. Whilst the feed ore particle size had no remarkable impact on overall Ni/Co extraction, it led to noticeably higher acid consumption and enhanced slurry rheology in the finer sized ore. The mechanism of leaching the SG ore followed a two-stage, first order chemical reaction-controlled shrinking core model, the kinetics of which gave higher rate constants and lower activation energies for the release of Ni, Co, Fe and Mg in the first stage. A faster leaching process involving more reactive minerals during the first 30 min is envisaged to be followed by leaching of the more refractory minerals.