The Zijinshan gold-copper mine, located in Shanghang County, China, is a porphyry-type, low-grade ore deposit with a geological profile of upper gold and lower copper. Despite its low-grade nature, it has become one of the largest in production scale and most profitable nonferrous metal mines in China, which can be attributed to the successful application of hydrometallurgy as well as proper engineering design. A large-scale, open-air cyanide heap leach has been successfully implemented to recover gold under the humid and rainy weather conditions of southern China. Furthermore, according to the gold ore characteristics, a combination of gravity separation, carbon-in-leach and heap leaching processes was developed to improve gold recovery. In terms of copper extraction, copper ore of a grade higher than 0.25 percent is fed to the flotation plants to produce copper concentrate (gold is also enriched here), while copper ore of a grade lower than 0.25 percent undergoes heap bioleaching followed by solvent extraction and electrowinning to produce cathode copper. Additionally, a unique bioleaching system has been established at the Zijinshan Mine: low operating pH (0.8~1.0), high concentration of total soluble iron (~50 g/L), high temperatures (45~60 °C) and low activity of microorganism (~104/mL) in the pregnant leach solution (PLS). This review paper summarizes the practical experience acquired in developing the Zijinshan gold-copper mine and could be of use in other gold and/or copper plants.
Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2020) 37:1339–1347, https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-020-00237-2