Document Type: Research Paper
School of Mining Engineering, College of engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
In copper heap leaching structures, the ore is leached by an acidic solution. After dissolving the ore mineral, the heap is drained off in the acidic solution using a drainage system (consisting of a network of perforated polyethylene pipes and gravelly drainage layers) and is, then, transferred to the leaching plant for copper extraction where the copper is extracted and the remaining solution is dripped over the ore heap for re-leaching. In this process, the reaction between the acidic solution and copper oxide ore is exothermal and the pregnant leach solution (PLS), which is drained off the leaching heap, has a higher temperature than the dripped acidic solution. The PLS temperature variations cause some changes in the viscosity and density which affect the gravelly drainage layer's permeability. In this research, a special permeability measuring system was devised for determining the effects of the PLS temperature variations on the permeability coefficient of the gravelly drainage layer of heap leaching structures. The system, consisting of a thermal acid resistant element and a thermocouple, controls the PLS temperature, which helps measure the permeability coefficient of the gravelly drainage layer. The PLS and gravelly drainage layer of Sarcheshmeh copper mine heap leaching structure No. 1 were used in this study. The permeability coefficient of the gravelly soil was measured against the PLS and pure water at temperatures varying between 3°C to 60°C. Also, the viscosity and density of the PLS and pure water were measured at these temperatures and, using existing theoretical relations, the permeability coefficient of the gravel was computed. A comparison between the experimental and theoretical results revealed a good conformity between the two sets of results. Finally, a case (Taft heap leaching structure, Yazd, Iran) was studied and its gravelly drainage layer was designed based on the results of the present research.