Mineralogy and characteristics that affect recoveries of metals and trace elements from the ore at Heath Steele Mines, New Brunswick

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 823, 1980

T.T. CHEN and W. PETRUK, Mineral Sciences Laboratories, CANMET, Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, Ottawa

The mineralogy of the feed, concentrates and tailings from the Heath Steele mill in New Brunswick was studied in detail to determine the liberation and recoveries of the major ore minerals, and to characterize the occurrence and distribution of the trace elements. The ore milled during August 1977 contained an average of 4.34 wt % Zn, 1.25 wt % Cu, 1.64 wt % Pb and 90 gr/ton Ag. The main trace elements in the ore are silver, cadmium, indium, cobalt, antimony, bismuth, arsenic, mercury, tin and gold. Silver is carried in solid solution in tetrahedrite-tennantite, galena, Ag-Sb sulfosalts and Pb-Bi-Sb sulfosalts. Approximately half of the silver is recovered in the lead and copper concentrates and the remainder is lost in the tailings and Zn concentrate. As the major silver-bearing minerals also contain Sb andBi, recovering silver by ore dressing would involve recovering elements that are troublesome in extraction metallurgy. Cadmium and most of the indium and mercury occur in solid solution in sphalerite and consequently are recovered in the zinc concentrate. Some indium is also recovered in the copper concentrate in a second unidentified indium-bearing mineral. Cobalt and arsenic occur principally in arsenopyrite, cobaltite, a Co-Fe sulfarsenide, pyrite and pyrrhotite, and follow these minerals into the tailings. Recovery of the valuable element cobalt, therefore, would involve recovering the environmentally hazardous element arsenic. Most of the tin and gold report to tailings.The ore was ground to about 80% minus 270 mesh. At this grind, 71 wt % of the sphalerite, 66 wt % of the chalcopyrite and 59 wt % of the galena were liberated. Recoveries of free sphalerite, free chalcopyrite and free galena in the Zn, Cu and Pb concentrates were 85 wt %, 76 wt % and 80 wt %, respectively; recoveries of unliberated sphalerite, unliberated chalcopyrite and unliberated galena in the respective Zn, Cu and Pb concentrates were 48 wt %, 5 wt % and 7 wt %. Some of the unliberated sphalerite and chalcopyrite grains in the tailings are large and would have been liberated at a finer grind.
Keywords: Mineralogy, Trace elements, Silver, Chalcopyrite, Galena, Sphalerite, Size distribution, Mineral liberation, Metal recovery, Mill concentrates, Tailings, Heath Steele Mines Ltd., New Brunswick, Sulphide ores.