What is Gold Amalgamation?
Gold amalgamation is a method of extracting gold from its ores by mixing it with mercury. It is an ancient gold separate method. This process forms a gold-mercury amalgam, where the gold particles are chemically bound to the mercury. The amalgam is then heated to vaporize the mercury, leaving behind the gold. This technique has been historically used in gold mining, particularly in areas where gold is finely disseminated in ore and may not be easily recoverable by other methods.
Gold Amalgamation Recovery Rate
The gold amalgamation recovery rate refers to the percentage of gold that can be successfully recovered through the amalgamation process. It measures the efficiency of the gold extraction method that involves using mercury to form a gold-mercury amalgam.
The recovery rate is calculated by comparing the amount of gold recovered through amalgamation to the total amount of gold present in the ore or concentrate. It is expressed as a percentage and provides insight into the effectiveness of the amalgamation process in capturing and extracting gold from the raw material.
A higher recovery rate indicates that a larger proportion of the gold in the ore is successfully amalgamated and recovered. A lower recovery rate suggests that a significant amount of gold remains unrecovered or is lost during the process. Modern mining practices aim to maximize recovery rates while minimizing the environmental and health risks associated with using mercury in gold amalgamation.
Factors Affecting Gold Amalgamation Recovery Rate
The recovery rate of gold during mercury amalgamation depends on the particle size and shape of natural gold, the color of gold particles, the quality of mercury, the mercury amalgamation temperature, the slurry concentration, the mercury amalgamation method and equipment factors, etc.
1. Gold Particle Size Shape
The particle size shape and monomer dissociation degree of gold are mainly related to the grinding operation. In particular, the degree of monomer dissociation has a more significant impact. Increasing the grinding fineness can improve the recovery rate of mercury amalgamation operations. Gold particles suitable for mercury amalgamation generally are 0.2-0.3 mm. The lower limit of the mercury amalgamation plate particle size in the grinding cycle is 0.015 mm, but the fine gold particles are lost with the slurry.
2. The Fineness of Gold Grains
The color of placer gold is higher than that of vein gold, and the color of gold in the oxidation zone is higher than that of primary ore. Gold with a high color is prone to amalgamation with mercury. If the surface of gold particles is contaminated, its amalgamation ability will significantly reduce.
3. Mercury Amalgamation Method
Mercury amalgamation is divided into internal mercury amalgamation and external mercury amalgamation. External mercury amalgamation is mixing mercury to extract gold outside the crushing chamber. External mercury amalgamation is commonly used in China with fixed and vibrating mercury amalgamation plates. Internal mercury amalgamation is performed outside the crushing chamber. During the grinding operation cycle, mercury amalgamation is used to extract gold. Gold mines in South Africa and the United States often use mercury amalgamation in ramming machines. Small and medium-sized gold mines in the Soviet Union often use disc rollers. In China, mercury amalgamation cylinders are often used. The efficiency of internal mercury amalgamation is higher than that of external mercury amalgamation, and the quality of mercury gold is good. The concentration of external amalgamated mercury slurry should not be too high to form a loose thin slurry flow, and the flow rate should not be too high to allow gold particles to settle onto the mercury plate. The concentration of internal mercury slurry should be 30-50%, and the mercury should be suspended.
4. pH of Slurry
The pH of the slurry has a great influence on the mercury amalgamation effect. The mercury amalgamation effect is good in acidic media and cyanide solutions, but when there is a lot of slime, the acidic medium cannot agglomerate the slime, and the slime contaminates the surface of the gold particles, affecting the mercury amalgamation effect. When mercury is mixed in an alkaline medium, such as using lime as a regulator to precipitate soluble salts and eliminate the adverse effects of oil quality, the impact of mercury mixing is better when PH=8-8.5.
5. Mercury Mass
The quality of mercury greatly influences the effect of mercury amalgamation. Pure mercury is not good at wetting gold. Mercury containing a small amount of gold, silver, and base metals can reduce the surface tension of mercury and improve the wetting effect. Motor oil, other organic matter, and fine mud will contaminate the surface of gold particles. Sulfide ore, talc, graphite, and arsenide in the ore easily adhere to the surface of mercury, which also affects the wetting ability of mercury to gold.
When mixing mercury, add an appropriate amount of mercury. Too much will reduce the elasticity and consistency of the mercury paste, causing the amalgam to be lost with the slurry. Insufficient addition of mercury makes the mercury paste hard and loses its elasticity, reducing its gold-capturing performance. After the mercury board is put into production, the initial mercury coating amount is 15-30 grams/cubic meter, and mercury is added after 6-12 hours. The amount of mercury-added is 2-5 times the gold content of the ore, and the consumption of mercury is usually 3-8 g/ton of ore.
6. Amalgamation Temperature
In addition, temperature also affects the effect of mercury amalgamation. If the temperature is too low, it will increase the viscosity of mercury and affect the mercury amalgamation effect. If the temperature is too high, it will increase the fluidity of mercury, causing part of the mercury to be lost with the loss of mercury. Therefore, the mercury amalgamation index is prone to seasonal changes. The mercury amalgamation temperature should generally be greater than 15 degrees. Adding mercury and adjusting the slurry concentration is used to eliminate the influence of temperature.
While gold amalgamation has been an effective means of extracting gold, it has significant drawbacks due to the toxicity of mercury. Mercury is a hazardous substance that can have severe environmental and health impacts. As a result, many modern mining operations have shifted to alternative methods, such as cyanide leaching or gravity concentration, which are considered more environmentally friendly and safer for workers and surrounding communities.
Mercury in gold amalgamation is now discouraged, and efforts are made to promote responsible and sustainable mining practices to minimize the negative effects on the environment and human health.