Modern metal extraction involves the use
of trace compounds known as collectors which help to separate metal
ions, particularly those with complex chemical structures, from
their naturally occurring ores during the flotation process. Traditional
xanthate collectors work at high pH values and produce high-alkaline
waste, the proper disposal of which is expensive and time-consuming.
In addition, large amounts of water, energy and mineral resources
Pyrometallurgy, the other conventional
method of producing copper from ore, also produces acid rain.
This project was aimed at developing better
and more efficient collectors for use in metal extraction. The newly
described chelate complexes achieve maximum metal recovery at five
to 10 times lower concentrations than conventional collectors and
at neutral pH, representing significant savings in terms of the
cost of the collector materials themselves and in the cost of lime
compounds which are typically used to maintain high pH.
Project partners say the principal impact
of their work will be environmental in nature. Consulting is already
being provided to interested industrial organisations.