Although the classification of hydrometallurgical processes is arbitrary, it is convenient to consider two general areas: (1) the leaching of ores, and (2)Put in a Concentration Equipment for processing. In some cases these ores or concentrates may be subjected to some pretreatment such as roasting or reduction to improve the extraction. By definition, an ore deposit is a naturally occurring mineral deposit which can be treated economically. Under this definition the leaching of low-grade materials, normally considered to be waste products, would fall into the first category and would, if leached at a profit, be termed an ore. Ores within this definition may be subdivided into low-grade materials and moderate-to-high-grade ores. The first would refer to materials of sufficiently low grade that it is not economic to subject them to additional treatment such as fine grinding and concentration, although sizing may be carried out.
This is a method of metal or metal compound extraction from an ore through pre-treatments that involve the use of a leaching agent, separation of impurities and precipitation. It is used in the extraction of uranium, gold, zinc, silver and copper from low-grade ores. This process has been improved by the development of processes like solvent extraction and ion exchange.
Hydrometallurgy involves the combination of extractive metallurgy, sciences, technology and chemistry for the recovery of metals from a wide variety of metal-bearing sources. These sources include ores, solutions, recycled materials, waste streams, intermediates and mineral concentrates that are converted into useful products for the society.
Hydrometallurgy, which involves the use of aqueous solutions for the recovery of metals from ores, concentrates, and recycled or residual material, plays an integral role in the multi-billion dollar minerals processing industry. There are numerous hydrometallurgical process technologies used for recovering metals, such as: agglomeration; leaching; solvent extraction/ion exchange; metal recovery; and remediation of tailings/waste.
Modern hydrometallurgical routes to extract metals from their ores are faced with a number of issues related to both the chemistry and engineering aspects of the processes involved. These issues include declining ore grade, variations in mineralogy across the deposits and geo-metallurgical locations of the ore site; which would influence the hydrometallurgical route chosen. The development of technologies to improve energy efficiency, water/resources consumption and waste remediation across the circuit is also an important factor to be considered. Therefore, there is an increasing need to develop novel solutions to these existing problems, to implement environmentally sustainable practices in the recovery of these valuable metals.
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