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Binders for heap leaching agglomeration

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2009, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 1-24

Lewandowski, K.A.; Kawatra, S. Komar


Agglomeration techniques are widely used by industry to form fine particles into larger masses that are easier to handle and process. One area where agglomeration is potentially useful is in heap leaching operations. Without agglomeration, fine particles travel through the heap, clogging the spaces between the larger particles and resulting in poor leach solution flow. Poor flow of leach solution will result in long leach rates and/or decreased metal recovery. Agglomeration immobilizes the fine particles and therefore improves heap permeability to fluid flow. Additional additives (binders) are needed to prevent agglomerates from breaking up as leaching solution percolates through the heap. Type II Portland cement and lime are two well-known binders used in gold and silver leaching, but these are limited to alkaline leaching environments. Various other products have been tested as binders, including polymers. This paper summarizes the benefits of agglomeration in heap leaching and the results obtained from the testing of several different agglomeration binders in heap leaching operations.