CIM Vancouver 2002
John Moyes, Kieran Rodgers, David Sammut, Frank Hollis,

J. Moyes, K. Rodgers, D. Sammut & F. Houllis (Intec Ltd, Australia)
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The Intec Process is a generic process for the production of pure base metals and precious metals from sulphides concentrates derived from copper, nickel, zinc and lead ores. The development program for the Intec Process initially focussed on the treatment of copper concentrates, (the ‘Intec Copper Process’), and more recently of zinc concentrates, (‘the Intec Zinc Process’).

Developed and proven in Sydney, Australia at a cost of US$15m over the last ten years, the Intec Copper Process is now ready for commercial application. The knowledge gained during the development of the Intec Copper Process has been applied to the Intec Zinc Process, which utilises the same basic chemistry to produce high purity zinc ingot from metallurgically complex zinc sulphide concentrates containing lead, copper, iron, silver and gold.

The demonstrated ability of the Intec Zinc Process to treat low grade mixed zinc/lead/copper concentrates, including those with high iron and manganese levels, holds out the real prospect of overcoming major metallurgical hurdles that have long affected the zinc industry.

The Intec Zinc Process consists of the three consecutive circuits of leaching, purification and electrowinning. The leach circuit is of single stage configuration with a series of reactors to which concentrate and lixiviant are fed. Purification consists of cementation and precipitation by pH adjustment. Electrowinning employs an electrolytic cell very similar in design to that of the Intec Copper Process, but differs in that a conventional plate cathode is produced.

During electrowinning, the same mixed halide species (BrCl2-, HalexTM) that is integral to the Intec Copper Process is generated in solution at the anode and exhibits powerful leaching characteristics capable of directly leaching the sulphide concentrate feed. The need to roast the concentrate prior to leaching, as is practised in the conventional Roast/Leach/Electrowin (RLE) process, is thus eliminated whilst a range of by-products (notably lead, copper and precious metals) can be extracted in the simple, single-stage leach.

This paper describes the Intec Zinc Process; the technology, predicted economics and its environmental aspects.

Keywords: New Process, Sulphide concentrates, Zinc, Sustainable, Bulk Concentrates
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