The interaction between free cyanide and silver impregnated activated carbon in a column configuration
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Due to equilibrium constraints and the relatively slow kinetics of the cyanidation of gold ores, calcium or potassium cyanide is added to the leaching stage in excess to that required theoretically. This, in many situations, result in large concentrations of free cyanide present in the effluent streams from gold plants. In view of the toxicity of cyanide and the fact that cyanide is fatal in small dosages, authorities have been forced to tigl1ten up plant discharge regulations. Therefore, it is vital to remove cyanide from industrial effluent, not only to meet standard requirements, but also to recover the cyanide as a means of reducing chemical costs. The aim of this study is to recover, rather than destroy, free cyanide from effluent streams via a metal impregnated carbon-in-column configuration. The first part of the study focused on the mechanism of free cyanide recovery by metal impregnated carbon and the factors influencing the kinetics of the process in a batch reactor. The second part concentrates on the optimisation of such a process m a column configuration, and subsequently to recover the cyanide from the carbon. In the batch experiments it was found that impregnated metal carbon outperformed virgin carbon for free cyanide removal both from a kinetic and equilibrium point of view. Furthermore: the presence of other metal cyanides in solution with free cyanide has a negligible effect on the performance of the metal (silver) impregnated activated carbon to remove free cyanide. Moreover, scanning electron micrographs revealed distinct differences in appearance of metal impregnated carbons, which ultimately responds differently to the removal of free cyanide. Although the kinetics of adsorption in the column experiments was found to be slower when compared to that experienced in a batch reactor, preliminary results show that a column configuration could be suitable for a free cyanide recovery on a large scale. Furthemore, a sensitivity analysis using the kinetics of adsorption and equilibrium cyanide loading as criteria, has been conducted on the column configuration. In these studies the effects of different bed volumes, competitive adsorption with other species present, different flow rates, different column diameters and initial cyanide concentrations on the process have been evaluated. These results were plotted as break-through curves, and the mass transfer zone (MTZ) was determined. It was found that impregnation in an air atmosphere yields a product with a higher capacity than in a nitrogen atmosphere, compromising carbon through combustion. Under a nitrogen atmosphere a more robust product is formed. As can be expected, lower linear velocities and/or larger bed volumes as well as lower initial free cyanide concentrations improve the fraction of cyanide removed in a column configuration.