Metals, minerals, mining and (some of) its problemsA short series of lectures prepared for the London Mining Network 24 April 2009 by Mark Muller firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgments:I acknowledge gratefully the extent to which I have leant on the work contained in several good text books:Mine Wastes: Characterization, Treatment and Environmental Impacts, 2nd Edition, by Bernd Lottermoser, 2007. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg.Mining and the Environment: From Ore to Metal, by Karlheinz Spitz and John Trudinger, 2009. CRC Press, Leiden.Introductory Mining Engineering, 2nd Edition, Howard Hartman and Jan Mutmansky, 2002. Wiley, New Jersey.Thank you also to CAFOD, London, for suggesting and organising the workshop, and for covering my travelling expenses to London for the event.
Outline of lectures:Topic 1: Ore mineralogy and orebodiesTopic 2: MiningTopic 3: Ore processing and metal recoveryTopic 4: Mine wastesTopic 5: Environmental and social concerns
Specific mining problems examined in some detail:• Surface subsidence above underground longwall-mining panels• Rockbursts in deep underground mines• Tailings dam failures• Riverine and submarine tailings disposal• Cyanidation wastes and their attenuation (destruction)• Radioactive uranium wastes and water contamination• Sulphide wastes and acidification of waters
Topic 1: Ore mineralogy and orebodies From a series of 5 lectures on Metals, minerals, mining and (some of) its problems prepared for London Mining Network by Mark Muller email@example.com 24 April 2009
Outline of Topic 1:• Elements and metals• Types of minerals• Radioactive elements, minerals and radioactive decay• The process of oxidation• Acids and alkalis• Types of rocks and orebodies• Examples of typical orebodies
Elements – minerals – rocks (orebodies) METALLURGICAL Elements are the building blocks of minerals EXTRACTIONe.g., iron, zinc, sulphur and oxygen are elements. Recover target metal from mineral concentrate LIBERATION Minerals are the building blocks of rocks PROCESSINGe.g., silicon-oxide (silica), iron-sulphide (pyrite) and tin-oxide Liberate target minerals from(cassiterite) are minerals. rock and concentrate themMetal-bearing minerals are the target of mining.Non metal-bearing minerals are referred to as gangue minerals. Rocks are aggregates of minerals MININGe.g., granite, limestone, sandstone and gneiss are rocks. Recover orebody from host rock“Orebodies” are rocks containing an enhanced percentage ofmetal-bearing minerals, high enough to be economic (i.e.,mined at a profit), and a lower percentage of gangue minerals.
Metals enrichment factorsMetals require significant enrichment above their normal background levels in the Earth’s crust to form a mineable orebody.Minerals are enriched to form orebodies through a wide range of different geological processes.The enrichment factor required to make a mine viable (i.e., profitable – within today’s economic framework for minerals exploitation) will vary from time to time, depending on commodity prices, and the ease of extraction of both the orebody from the ground and the target metal from the orebody. Figure from Spitz and Trudinger, 2009.
World production of non-fuel mineral commodities in 1999. Table from Lottermoser, 2007.
Elements:Elements are made up of atoms which consist of protons, neutrons and electrons. The number of protons (the “atomic number”) defines the “element”.For example oxygen (O) has 8 protons, Uranium (U) has 92 protons.In a well ordered fashion through the periodic table, the number of protons, neutrons and electrons increases, and the atoms (elements) become heavier and larger in diameter. Electron 1 “valence” 3 Electrons Negative electrical charge electron in the 3 Protons No mass outer electron - 4 Neutrons - “shell” - + + + + Neutron No charge Proton Positive electrical charge - Hydrogen (H) atom Lithium (Li) atom
Periodic Table of Elements “Metalloids” “Rare Earth Elements”
Some definitions regarding metals:• Metals are elements that are malleable, ductile, and conduct heat and electricity well – gold (Au), silver (Ag), copper (Cu), platinum (Pt) etc.• Metalloids (or “semi-metals”) are elements with both metallic and non-metallic properties, and have a lower ability to conduct heat and electricity – boron (B), arsenic (As), antimony (Sb), bismuth (Bi), selenium (Se) and tellurium (Te).• Heavy metals are those metals with a density greater than 6 g/cm3: Fe, Cu, Pb, Zn, Sn, Ni, Co, Mo, W, Hg, Cd, In, Tl. (Gold ~18 g/cm3)• Base metals are those metals that tend to be used in industry by themselves, rather than alloyed with other metals – Cu, Pb, Zn, Sn.
Making minerals from elements:The sharing of electrons by different elements forms the basis of the creation of compounds.Minerals are compounds – combinations of elements held together by the forces established through the sharing of electrons.Gold (Au) is stable and unreactive, and forms no compounds in nature.An ion is an atom or molecule (compound) which has lost or gained one or more electrons, giving it a positive or negative electrical charge.Anions a negative charge (e.g., CN-).Cations have a positive charge (e.g., H+)H+ cation lies at the root of acid mine drainageCN- (cyanide) anion is the basis of cyanidation waste problems.
Minerals:A mineral is often crystalline in form.The crystal lattices of minerals hold metal elements very tightly.Aggressive chemical means, or large amounts of thermal or electrical energy, are therefore required to liberate the metals from their host mineralsThe mineral pyrite Model of the crystal(FeS2) in its form of the titaniumcharacteristic oxide mineral rutilecubic crystal form (TiO2) O atoms Ti atomshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pyrite_foolsgold.jpg http://www.hgs-model.com/gallery/index.html
“Classes” or groups of minerals:Significant metal-hosting minerals - Native metals: pure metals or metal alloys - Oxides: compounds with oxygen (O) - Sulphides: compounds with sulphur (S)Minerals primarily of “industrial” interest - Silicates: Si-O - Carbonates: CO3 - Halides (salts): ClMinerals hosting interesting metals (and with some industrial interest) - Sulphates: SO4 - Phosphates: PO4 - Borates: B-O
Metal-bearing minerals:Native metalsA native metal is a metal found in its metallic form in nature.Only gold, silver, copper and platinum metals occur in nature in exploitable amounts.All mined gold is native metal, alloyed with up to 15% silver.There are no common naturally occurring gold oxides, sulphides or other minerals.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SilverUSGOV.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Native_Copper_Macro_Digon3.jpg Prospector B. O. Holtermann with 286 kg solid gold nuggetNative silver (Ag). Source: US Native copper (Cu) about 4 cm in found in 1872 at Hill End,Government. size. Credit: Jonathan Zander. NSW, Australia. From Spitz and Trudinger, 2009.
Metal-bearing minerals:Metal oxidesAre simple compounds with the element oxygen (O). Metals are relativelyeasily extracted from oxide minerals. Examples include:Hematite: Fe2O3 Ilmenite: FeTiO3Rutile: TiO2 Cassiterite: SnO2Coltan (Columbite-Tantalite): (Fe,Mn)(Nb,Ta)2O6http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CassiteriteUSGOV.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hematite.jpg Hematite (FeO2) “kidney ore” from Michigan. The yellow is the reflection of a lampCassiterite (SnO2). Source: US used for lighting.Government.
Metal-bearing minerals:Metal sulphidesAre simple compounds with the element sulphur (S). Metals are lesseasily extracted from sulphide minerals, and are often oxidised first, as theinitial stage in metal recovery. Examples include:Chalcocite: Cu2S Sphalerite: ZnS Galena: PbSPyrite: FeS2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cinnabar09.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sphalerite4.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GalenaKaCinnabar (HgS), Buckskin Mnts., Aggregate of Sphalerite (ZnS) Galena (PbS) crystal.Nevada. Credit: Chris Ralph. crystals. Credit: Andreas Früh
“Rock-forming” minerals:SilicatesAre compounds with silicon-oxygen (Si-O) and occur in many differentcrystal forms.Silicates all contain metallic elements, but it is currently not possibleto extract the metals from them, so interest in silicate minerals lies in theirindustrial uses. Examples include:Quartz (silica): SiO2 Beryl (emerald): Be3Al2(SiO3)6Muscovite (mica): KAl2(AlSi3O10)(F,OH)2 Beryl Be3Al2(SiO3)6 Crocidolite (blue) asbestos variety emerald Na2Fe2+3Fe3+2Si8O22(OH)2 from the now closed mine at Wittenoom, Western Australia. Credit: John Hayman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Emerald_rough_300x422.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_asbesto
Other minerals of interest:SulphatesFormed with sulphur-oxygen (SO4).Gypsum: CaSO4∙2H2O - used in cementBoratesFormed with boron-oxygen (B-O) and are exploited for the metalloidelement boron (B).Borax: Na2B4O7∙10H2OUlexite: NaCaB5O9∙8H2OCarbonatesFormed with carbon-oxygen (CO3). They are easily dissolved in acids,and are able to neutralise acids.Calcite, limestone: CaCO3 - limestone is the main component of cement
Other minerals of interest:PhosphatesFormed with phosphorous-oxygen (PO4).Phosphates exploited for Rare Earth Element (REE) metals and thorium (Th):Monazite: (Ce,La,Pr,Nd,Th,Y)PO4 - radioactive, due to thorium, and the most common ore of thoriumApatite: (Ca,Sr,Ce,La)5(PO4)3(F,Cl,OH) - a non-radioactive source of REEsPhosphates are also mined to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apatite09.jpgobtain phosphorus for use inagriculture and industry:Phosphate: H3PO4 Apatite, variety fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F from Mexico. Credit: Chris Ralph
Other minerals of interest:Halides (salts)Salts are “evaporite” minerals formed with chlorine (Cl).They are easily dissolved in water and are often mined in-situ usingsolution-mining methods. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mineral_Silvina_GDFL105.jpg Halite (rock salt): NaCl Sylvite: KCl - fertiliser industry Sylvite (KCl). Credit: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez.
Oxidation:Oxidation is a reaction with oxygen that results in the breakdown of minerals.Metallic sulphide minerals (e.g., pyrite) oxidise in the presence of water and oxygen to:• produce acids and• release dissolved metals into water.Note:“Oxidised” sulphide minerals are not the same as “primary” oxide minerals. A primary oxide of iron is hematite: Fe2O3 Oxidation of pyrite (FeS2) produces iron-hydroxide: Fe(OH)3
ACIDAcids and alkalis and pH:Anything that reacts with an “acid” is called an “alkali”.pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. Acidic pH less than 7 (lemon juice = 2, battery acid = 0) Neutral pH equal to 7 (distilled water) Alkaline pH greater than 7 (household ammonia = 11)They neutralise each other through the following reaction: H+ + OH- H 2O Acid Alkali Water ALKALI Figure from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PH_scale.png. Credit Stephen Lower
Rocks and orebodies:Rocks and orebodies are aggregates of different minerals.Orebodies have high concentrations of metal bearing minerals and are hosted in barren “country” rock.Mined country rock is referred to as gangue or waste.Volcanic, sedimentary and metamorphic processes form rocks and minerals.Hydrothermal fluids associated with volcanic and metamorphic processes contain high concentrations of dissolved metals and also form ores
Igneous rocksIgneous rocks are formed whenmolten magma cools andcrystallises either on the surfaceor at depth in the crust. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2005.11.08_005_Granito_OrbicuExamples: granite, basalt,kimberlite. An outcrop of orbicular granite. Locality: Orbicular Granite Nature Sanctuary, near Caldera, Chile. Photo credit: Herman Luyken
Sedimentary rocksSedimentary rocks are formed bydeposition of• clastic sediments derived from the erosion of other rocks (mud, gravel, sands) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Conglomeratereyes.jpg• organic matter• chemical precipitates (evaporites)followed by burial and compactionof the material.Examples: Sandstone,conglomerate, limestone, coal,potash. An outcrop of conglomerate overlying sandstone. Locality: Point Reyes, Marin County, California.
Metamorphic rocksMetamorphic rocks are formed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Conglomeratereyes.jpgwhen any rock type is subjected tohigh temperature and pressure.Examples: marble (from limestoneprecursor), quartzite (fromsandstone precursor), gneiss (fromgranite precursor). Banded gneiss, formed by high pressure compression that aligned minerals, forming a layered fabric. Locality: Skagit Gneiss Complex, North Cascades Range, Washington, USA. Credit: US Geological Survey
Ore genesis:Enrichment of metal-bearing minerals occurs in specific geo-tectonic settings in response to specific geological processes.These geological settings and processes produce different types of orebodies, with “classic” mineral assemblages/combinations, e.g.: Massive iron-ore Placer (alluvial) gold Massive copper sulphide + gold Massive lead-zinc sulphide Layered igneous intrusions: platinum, palladium, chromium Nickel laterite and bauxite Diamondiferous kimberlite Alluvial diamond Mineral sands Coal
Massive sulphide lead-zinc deposit, Black Angel Mine, Greenland (1973 – 1991)Black Angel Mine exploited a SIMPLIFIED CROSS-SECTION THROUGH BLACK ANGEL MINEmassive sulphide lead-zincdeposit (sphalerite, galena and Massivepyrite) hosted in marble and sulphide orebodiesmetasediments. Ore-grades of12.5% Zn, 4.1% Pb, 30 ppm(g/ton) Ag were reported (Asmundet al., 1994). The massive sulphide 600 morebodies are developed sub-parallel to metamorphic banding inthe country rock, and were minedusing a room-and-pillar method. Approx. 9 km http://www.angusandross.com/AR-NEW/pages/proj-black-angel-phase1.htm 3m Cable car access point into mine Massive sulphide ore (dark band) showing in a support pillar left remnant after cessation of mining in 1990. (From: Black http://www.angusandross.com/AR-NEW/pages/proj-black-angel.htm Angel News, 2005).
Kimberlite diamond depositsKimberlite volcanic pipes are the hosts of Diagram showing“primary” diamond deposits. the structure of a kimberlite volcanicBoth the volcanic magmas and the contained pipe.diamonds originate at depths of about 170 to200 km below the Earth’s surface, and arebrought to surface during a very rapid andexplosive eruption events.Kimberlite pipes are subsequently erodedthrough geologic time, exposing deeper partsof the pipe, and developing “secondary”deposits of alluvial diamonds that are foundin river beds, flood plains, and offshore asmarine deposits. Figure from McCarthy and Rubidge (2005)Diamond grades in kimberlite pipes are highlyvariable, and some pipes are completelybarren (for good geological reasons). Some Udachnaya Pipe, Sakha Republic,reported grades lie in the range 0.28 – 7.5 Russia, in thecarats per ton (Roberts, 2007, pg 68). summer of 2004. Credit: AlexanderSecondary alluvial diamond deposits may be Stepanov.significantly enriched in diamonds as theprocess of erosion “concentrates” heavy,resistant minerals. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Udachnaya_pipe.JPG
Palaeo-placer gold deposit - Witwatersrand Basin, South AfricaThe Witwatersrand Basin in an ancient (2.8billion years old) palaeo-placer deposit,consisting of multiple stacked and alternatingshale, sandstone and thin conglomeratesedimentary bands.The gold mineralisation is found in theconglomerate bands (called “reefs”), typicallybetween 5 to 100 cm thick. The gold waseither introduced at the time the sedimentswere deposited, or was introduced later bygold-bearing hydrothermal fluids (or both). Geological cross-section through the Welkom Goldfield. Figure from McCarthy, 2006The sedimentary basin subsequently suffered Carbonextensive deformation, producing folds andfaults that disrupt the deposit. Faults impact Pyritesignificantly on safe (and efficient) mining. GoldUnderground mines operate up to a maximum Quartzdepth of about 4,000 meters. Mineablegrades in a deep goldmine operations areof the order of 10 – 20 g/ton. 1 cmMany of the reefs contain accessory Gold and carbon nodules with “buckshot” pyrite in conglomerate reef from the Witwatersranduranium, which is processed as by-product on Basin, South Africa. Figure from McCarthy andseveral mines. Rubidge, 2005. Photo credit: Goldfields.
Nickel laterite depositsNickel laterite ore deposits are the surficial, deeply http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:River_Soutweathered residues formed on top of ultramafic rocks h_New_Caledonia.JPG.JPGthat are exposed at surface in tropical climates. Theyare found widely in New Caledonia, Cuba, Australia,Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Indonesia,and are estimated to comprise about 73% of the Limonite zoneworld continental nickel resource.Two kinds of lateritic nickel ore can be distinguished:limonite (oxide) types and saprolite (silicate) types.Deep downward Near surface upwardpenetration of water evaporation of waterproducing weathering precipitates Fe, Ni oxide LIMONITE A Creek in southern New-Caledonia. Goethite ZONE Red colours reveal the richness of the (hydrated oxide) 1- 2% Ni ground in iron oxides, and nickel.SAPROLITE OREBODY SerpentineZONE (hydrated silicate)1.5 - 2.5% Ni The process of oxidation and Olivine and weathering depletes the original Mg RICH “ULTRAMAFIC” pyroxene mafic rock of Mg and Si, and ROCK 0.3% Ni (silicate minerals) concentrates Fe and Ni in the weathered zone.
Radioactive elements:In radioactive elements, the configuration of the nucleus is unstable, and breaks down, emitting radioactive “decay” products: alpha, beta and gamma radiation.Isotopes of an element have nuclei with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons.Some isotopes are stable, and others subject to radioactive decay. Alpha radiation is readily stopped by a sheet of paper. Helium nucleus Beta radiation is halted by an aluminium plate. Electron Gamma radiation is eventually absorbed as it penetrates a dense material. Lead, being Energy dense, is good at absorbing (electromagnetic gamma radiation – several radiation) centimeters of thickness is needed. Modified from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_particle
Radioactive elements:A parent nuclide is an element that undergoes radioactive decay, producing a daughter nuclide, that may be a different element.Parent DaughterU-238 decays to form Th-234 by releasing an alpha particle.92 protons 90 protons146 neutrons 144 neutronsThe daughter nuclide may itself be stable or unstable (i.e., radioactive).The half-life is the time taken for half the radionuclides atoms to decay. Half-lives vary between more than 1019 years, for very nearly stable nuclides, to 10−23 seconds for highly unstable ones.
Uranium radioactive decay series – and half-lives Uranium-238 Series starts with radioactive isotope(92 protons, 146 neutrons) Series ends with stable lead isotope The SI unit of radioactive decay is the Becquerel (Bq). One Bq is defined as one decay per second. Table from Lottermoser, 2007, and references therein.
Radioactive uranium minerals:The main “primary” ore in uranium deposits isUraninite: UO2Other important “primary” uranium ore minerals are:Brannerite: (U,Ca,Y,Ce)(Ti,Fe)2O6 – a mixed uranium, iron, titanium oxide mineral.Coffinite: USiO4∙nH2O – a hydrated uranium silicatePitchblende – an amorphous, poorly crystalline mix of uranium oxides often including triuranium octoxide: U3O8.
“Daughter” nuclides are trapped in uranium minerals or escape At the time the mineral is formed in orebody 1 Billion years later Uraninite: UO2 Uraninite: UO2 100% uranium 75% uranium has decayed to daughter radionuclides. Some daughters will remain trapped in the mineral, or they migrate elsewhere in the orebody to form other minerals
Radioactive minerals:The “primary” uranium minerals weather and break down very easily when exposed to water and oxygen, to produce numerous “secondary” (oxidised) minerals, for example carnotite and autunite, which are often mined, but in significantly lower quantities that uraninite.Uranium is also found in small amounts in other minerals:allanite, xenotime, monazite, zircon, apatite and sphene. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pichblende.jpg File:Carnotite-BYU.jpg Carnotite K2(UO2)2(VO4)2∙3H2O, An important “secondary” uranium-vanadium bearing mineral, from Happy Jack Mine, White Canyon District, Utah, USA. Credit: Andrew Uraninite (pitchblende) UO2 Silver.