Ammoniacal system mechanisms for leaching copper from converter slag

Alvaro Aracena, Andrés Valencia, Oscar Jerez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In pyrometallurgical processes refining copper, the main source of loss in the conversion stage is from slag. This paper reports on research work treating converter slag containing high percentages of copper (36 wt%) using ammonium hydroxide at room temperature. Variables analyzed are solution pH, agitation, temperature, NH4 OH concentration and particle size. Results showed that the hydronium ion resulting from ammonium hydroxide dissociation was the main oxidant of copper compounds in slag, such as CuO, Cu2 O and Cu, with the exception of CuFeO2. The particles contain a large amount of microcracks (porosity) in their refractory structure (analyzed by compositional image capture (BSE)). Thus, the diffusion of the leaching solution through the microcracks making contact with the copper oxides would be allowed. Leaching mechanisms were corroborated by X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy analysis. Increasing temperature and NH4 OH concentration while decreasing particle size obtained higher copper recoveries, reaching values of 84.8%. Under the same conditions, the main impurity (iron) was minimal (<2%). Solution pH also affected slag leaching. Agitation of the solution positively affected the rate of copper extraction. Leaching kinetics of the leaching solution through the porosity formed in the slag was analyzed under the intraparticle diffusion model. The reaction order was 1.2 with respect to the concentration of ammonium hydroxide and the model was inversely proportional to the square of the particle radius. The activation energy obtained was 42.3 kJ/mol for temperature range 283 to 333 K.

Original languageEnglish
Article number712
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Ammonia leaching
  • Converter slag
  • Kinetics
  • Microcracks


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