Factors affecting the conversion of calcium cyanamide to black cyanide

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1063, 2002

C.A. Pickles, J.M. Toguri, and R.A. Bergman

Black calcium cyanide is utilized mainly as a reagent for gold extraction. It is produced by reacting calcium cyanamide, sodium chloride and calcium carbide at temperatures in the range of 1200°C to 1400°C in a smothered arc furnace. The equivalent sodium cyanide content of the product is in the range of 45% to 50% and the calcium cyanamide conversion efficiency is in the range of 90% to 95%. Since black cyanide contains impurities such as salt and lime and also because the conversion efficiencies are below 100%, the product contains unwanted materials which significantly increase the shipping costs. The impurity content of the raw materials can not be lowered without increasing their cost and/or the processes to produce them, and therefore the present research was focussed on studying those factors which affect the cyanide grade. The major variables investigated were: the heating rate, the reaction temperature, the salt to cyanamide ratio, the nitrogen content of the calcium cyanamide, moisture additions and calcium carbide additions. It was found that each of these variables had a significant effect on the product grade. The highest cyanide content of the product was obtained for salt to cyanamide mass ratios of 0.55 to 0.60. The salt reduces the decomposition rate of the cyanide and, therefore, at low salt to cyanamide ratios and at higher temperatures, the product grade is decreased. It is likely that the salt evaporates at the higher reaction temperatures and this decreases the cyanide capacity of the melt. High heating rates minimize the residence time and thus salt evaporation is reduced and higher grades can be obtained. As expected, the cyanide content increased with the nitrogen content of the cyanamide. Calcium carbide additions resulted in an increase in the product grade. The presence of small amounts of moisture in the charge caused a significant decrease in the cyanide content of the black cyanide. An equilibrium reaction is postulated in order to explain the black cyanide process and in particular the effect of calcium carbide on the product grade.
Mots Clés: Cyanide, Calcium cyanamide, Black calcium cyanide, Gold extraction, Heating rate, Conversion.