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Simultaneous mercury capture and silver leaching using Ag2S-bearing ores and residues

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2014, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 181-185

Gabby, K.L.; Eisele, T.C.; Bucknam, C.H.; Hall, B.; Milosavljevic, E.


Since mercury is chemically similar to silver, it tends to dissolve along with the silver and gold during cyanide leaching. Ultimately, mercury is recovered along with the silver as mercury/silver/gold amalgam, which requires retorting to remove the mercury prior to refining the silver and gold. A possible approach to separating mercury from silver and gold in cyanide leach solutions is to take advantage of the replacement reaction between [Hg(CN)4]2- and Ag2S, which results in precipitation of mercury as HgS while dissolving silver as [Ag(CN)2]-. Results are presented demonstrating that mercury can be removed from cyanide solutions with high effectiveness while, at the same time, recovering additional silver in solution. Initial experiments with static flasks in the laboratory showed a high degree of mercury removal could be achieved. Results using actual metallurgical plant products in bottle roll tests indicate the process works on a larger scale, but also results in significant gold losses if the solution being treated has high gold levels, such as carbon stripping pregnant eluent solution.