Leaching of Cu, Zn, and Pb from sulfidic tailings under the use of sulfuric acid and chloride solutions
The imbalance between raw materials of high economic importance and their supply has increased the search for new approaches to obtain valuable elements from mining tailings. In this study, the extraction of copper, zinc, and lead from sulfidic tailing in sulfate–chloride media was investigated. A 3 3 Box–Behnken design was applied to evaluate three variables over a 4-h testing period: sulfuric acid concentration (0.01–1.0 mol/L H 2 SO 4 ), sodium chloride (10–60 g/L NaCl), and temperature (20–70 °C). The design showed two optimum working regions: a combination of a high NaCl level, low H2SO4 level, and medium temperature level for lead leaching, while for copper and zinc, a combination of a medium–high H 2 SO 4 level and a high temperature level. The concentration of NaCl had only a slight impact on their leaching. Based on these results, two-stage leaching was performed. The first stage was carried out under an experimental condition that favored the leaching of lead (60 g/L NaCl, 0.01 mol/L H 2 SO 4 , 45 °C, 1 h, 10:1 liquid-to-solid ratio), whereas the second stage maximized the leaching of copper and zinc (60 g/L NaCl, 0.5 mol/L H2SO4, 70 °C, 24 h, 10:1 liquid-to-solid ratio). The global leaching rate was 66.8 ± 3.0% copper, 84.1 ± 5.2% zinc, and 93.9 ± 3.2% lead. The iron and arsenic content were also leached by about 20 and 50% at the end of the second stage. The study demonstrated that the use of sulfate–chloride media in a two-stage leaching considerably improved the extraction of the desired metals and was, therefore, suitable for their recovery.