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The Gold Leach Plant Expansion at the Boliden Mill Design Considerations, Baseline Investigations and Approval Process


Pia Lindstrm, 2)Karl Erik Isaksson, 3)Johan Ljungberg and 4)Manfred Lindvall
Boliden Mineral, Boliden Area, S-93681 Boliden, Swe den Boliden Mineral, Environment Protection, S-93681 Boliden, Sweden Boliden Ltd, Bloor St W, West Tower, suite 1500, Toronto, Ontario, M8X 2X2 Canada

1 2, 4 3

Abstract During 2001, Boliden is commissioning the companys first industrial scale installation for gold leaching using cyanide. The plant will be the first of its kind in Sweden and northern Europe. The plant will utilise an integrated circuit for cyanide destruction as one component in a multi-stage treatment system, aiming at minimising the environmental impact and preventing from risks associated with the use of cyanide. This paper describes the application process, the technical investigations, the risk assessment procedures being utilised, and the environmental impact assessment that was performed during the design process. Introduction In December 1996, Boliden applied for a permit for expansion of the existing mill at Boliden with a gold cyanidation section. Being the first operator of such a process in Northern Europe, substantial effort was put into the process design and the environmental baseline studies. Early in the project, work started to identify and minimise possible environmental effects. The pre-feasibility project comprised three sub-projects: ?? Process control. The aim was to identify existing techniques or develop techniques to minimise the cyanide load in the effluent. ?? Optimised management of the tailings pond. The aim of this sub-project was to predict the effluent quality and to develop principles for management of the tailings pond to optimise its function with regards to cyanide traces. ?? Environmental impact assessment. The aim was to predict the content of cyanide and its decomposition products in the receiving waters, including the environmental impact, in light of the actual status of the system. Boliden early assumed the position that the discharge should not prevent the recovery of the near recipient, since many years under influence from the tailings pond discharge, and under no circumstances cause any detectable change in the Skellefte river.

Area description Mining in the Boliden area started in 1924, after the discovery of the rich Boliden gold ore. The mine was operating until 1967. The discovery of the Boliden ore also marked the starting point of exploration activities in the Skellefte Field, still, 77 years later, internationally renowned for its potential in gold and base metal deposits. The ore reserves in the Boliden area are mainly complex sulphides, but monometallic gold ores occur (ref. 1 and 2). Until today, Boliden has been operating 28 mines and 4 mills, of which two mills and six mines still are in production. The central mill was commissioned 1953, but has been subject to expansion and improvements a number of times. Through the years, gold has been extracted using a combination of flotation and gravity processes, with acceptable recoveries. New ore finds with high content of precious metals, however, have called for a technology step in order to raise the recovery. The existing tailings pond was commissioned in 1953. The first part of the receiving stream is a constructed channel, to which also effluent from the municipal sewer treatment plant is discharged. Large efforts have been made during the last decades to improve the water treatment sys tem at the tailings pond, and the creek is gradually recovering. Gillervattnet (tailings pond)

Fig 1: Area map

Skellefte river Brubcken Bjurlidtrsket creek

Concentrator Boliden

Approval process Swedish environmental legislation has recently been reformed. Fifteen central environmental acts have been amalgamated into the Environmental Code, which came into force on January 1:st 1999. The Code constitutes a modernised, broadened and tightened environmental legislation aimed at promoting sustainable development. The Code also puts more emphasis on goals and environmental management than the previous environmental legislation. The permit is issued by the Environmental Court. The Court in their decision has to balance environmentally justified requirements against technical and economical realities (ref. 3). The application process for the Boliden gold leach plant expansion started in March 1998. After consultations with stakeholders and authorities according to the protocol, the company in December 1998 could file the application to the Environmental Court. The permit, issued in March 2000, contained 13 specified final conditions. The issue of final conditions regarding the emissions of cyanide to water and air was postponed and will be actualised after two years operation of the plant. During this follow up period, the company has to conduct investigations to provide a basis for the development of the final permit. The temporary conditions for the discharge of cyanide are as follows (ref. 4): 1. The content of cyanide and hydrogen cyanide (as CN) from the ventilation system may as a guiding value not exceed 5 mg/m3. 2. The content of total cyanide (as CN) in the processed slurry from the cyanide destruction process may as a guiding value over 14 days, not exceed 2 mg/l. 3. The content of cyanide in the discharge from the clarification pond may as a guiding value for free cyanide at each sampling occasion not exceed 0,5 mg/l and as a monthly mean value not exceed 0,2 mg/l. The gold leach process The ore reserves constituting the economic basis for the project is a mixture of simple gold ores and zinc flotation middlings. Early, it was concluded, that a process flexible enough for the application on the variety of ore types needed to be carbon based, CIL or CIP. The concept includes a circuit designed for leaching at elevated temperature. The design comprises a carbon in leach circuit, comprising 8 tanks, 800 m3 each. The process is of standard design and the final product is bullion with 10 20 % Au depending on the feed. An internal criterion established early in the project was that the effluent should have undergone detoxification prior to discharge into the tailings pond. The process selected was Inco SO2/AIR, and Inco was furthermore contracted for the design, the test work and the commissioning of the circuit. The detoxification process is usually described using the following reactions (ref. 5):

Oxidation CN free + SO 2 + O2 + H2O => OCN- + H2SO4 Me(CN)42- + 4 SO2 + 4O 2 + 4H 2O => 4OCN- + 4H2SO4 + Me 2+ Me 2+ = Zn2+, Cu2+, Ni2+, Cd2+ etc. Neutralisation using lime H2SO 4 + Ca(OH)2 => CaSO 4 x 2H 2O Precipitation Me 2+ + Ca(OH)2 => Me(OH)2 + Ca2+ 2 Me 2+ + Fe(CN)64- => (Me) 2 Fe(CN)6 Me = Zn, Cu, Ni, Cd, Fe, etc. The presence of copper ions is catalysing the reactions, The influence of sulphur dioxide is not fully explained, but it is assumed, that some intermediary compounds are generated, that accelerate the reactions. Base line investigation and environmental impact assessment The Brubcken system comprises a 12 km creek down to Skellefte river and the 35 hectare lake Brutrsket, half way. The uppermost part of the system is a channel, which was constructed early in the 1950s to divert the discharge from the Gillervattnet tailings pond to the Brubcken creek. The receiving stream from the tailings pond down to the Skelefte River is affected by l the combined influence of the tailings pond discharge, with elevated thiosalts content, and the sewage treatment plant discharge with mainly BOD and elevated content of phosphate. Since many years, the creek Brubcken and the lake Brutrsket have been considered unimportant from an environmental point of view, with particularly low value as angling ground. Several steps of improvement of the water treatment system at the tailings pond, however, have enabled a gradual recovery of the creek. The pH is today regularly above neutral, and the content of oxygen consuming compounds is lower than previously. The metal content is consistently low in the discharge. Investigations of fauna in the upper parts of the system unveil a limited number of species and low population density. Sampling points located downstream show higher diversity and density. The phytoplankton in the lake Brutrsket is significantly affected. Low volume of biomass and limited number of taxa shows low primary production and some kind of influence. Investigation of higher species shows a flora indicating oligotrophic conditions. In the higher vegetation, it is not possible to detect any disturbances.

Investigation of benthic invertebrates shows that the creek system is under influence from the discharge situation. The influence is as strongest in the upper station. The influence is detected mainly as a low number of species, a low population density and a limited number of dominating species. The acidity index indicates that the benthic fauna is under influence from pH-variations in the two upper stations. An improvement has been verified in the lower parts of the system. Attempts to catch fish have failed, showing there is no developed stock of fish in the system. Witnesses tell that fish occasionally migrate into the system from the Skellefte river. Colonisation of the system would be possible from undisturbed tributaries and lakes upstream, if conditions improved. The conclusion is that the environment today is not suited for a permanent population (ref. 6).
Loaded carbon Eluation column Electrowinning cells Goldplated cathodes Flux

Flotation tailings

Spent Eluate Electrolyte electrolyte Calcinating tank owen Carbon regeneration Trash


Cyanide Carbon Slaked lime Gold leaching flotation SO 2 Leach tank CIL tanks (7) Flotation tailings from other process se ction Air Fine carbon Cyanide destruction To thetailingspond Dor gold

Fig 1: Process scheme

Natural decomposition and attenuation of cyanide species Natural decomposition of possible trace contents of cyanide is assumed to take place in the tailings pond, following a complex scheme of processes. Examples of such reactions and processes are the following (ref. 7). ?? Hydrolysis/Evaporation: Cyanide ions are forming dissolved hydrogen cyanide. The reaction is strongly pH-depending. As an example, at pH 7, 99 % of the cyanide is present as HCN, while at pH 9,4 the fraction is 50 %. Dissolved hydrogen cyanide evaporates according to the equilibrium constants. ?? Oxidation of free cyanide: Oxidation of HCN with air is generating hydrogen cyanate. Direct oxidation of CN- requires mineralogical, bacterial or photochemical catalysis (solar radiation). The hydrogen cyanate is further decomposed to ammonia and carbon dioxide. ?? Anaerobic bacterial decomposition of free cyanide: Decomposition of cyanide without air may take place if HS- or H2S are available. The reaction product is hydrogen thiocyanate, HSCN, which then is hydrolysed while generating ammonia, hydrogen gas, elementary sulphur and carbon dioxide. Thiocyanate may also be generated as a result of cyanide ions reacting with elementary sulphur, pyrite or pyrrhotite. ?? Hydrolysis/saponification of free cyanide: At decreasing pH, HCN is hydrolysed, forming various formiate compounds. ?? Dissociation of metal complexes: Cyanide is forming water soluble complexes with metals such as Cu, Zn, Ni and Fe. During natural decomposition of free cyanide, metal complexes are decomposed under influence of the change in equilibrium caused by evaporation or decomposition of HCN. The evaporation of HCN is a faster process than the decomposition of the metal complexes, a process that is kinetically controlling the natural decomposition. ?? Precipitation: Depending on the content of free cyanide and the composition of the solution with regards to metals etc., a large number of stable cyanide compounds may be precipitated. Risk analysis and safety aspects evaluation As an integrated sub-process of the design and construction process, the plant has undergone a risk assessment using Hazop-analysis methodology. The analysis comprised an evaluation of risks with reference to production disturbances, health hazards and environmental influence. In the assessment group, representatives of several disciplines have participated. Identified risks have been classified and the responsibilities for measures to be taken have been defined. The risk analysis has been used as a basis for the safety report, that need to be submitted following the European Unions Seveso II directive and Swedish law on prevention of accidents by chemical substances. The safety report comprises a risk assessment, an emergency preparedness plan and an action plan including targets and principles for risk management.

The plant has been equipped with several technical solutions aimed at prevention of accidents and environmental impact. As an integrated sub-process of the design and construction process, the plant has undergone a risk assessment using Hazop-analysis methodology. The analysis comprised an evaluation of risks with reference to production disturbances, health hazards and environmental influence (ref. 8). Environmental protection programme The final design of the plant uses several technical solutions aimed at prevention of accidents and environmental impact. The list comprises the following features: ?? The incorporation of a cyanide destruction circuit integrated with the leach plant. The plant has a design capacity twice the actual requirement. ?? The tailings pond system constitutes a second cyanide treatment facility, serving as a backup to the cyanide destruction circuit. ?? Flotation plant middlings and the leach circuit effluent is combined prior to cyanide destruction to stabilise pH of the feed, to prevent from increase of pH, which may cause dissolution of already precipitated cyanide complexes. ?? A back up system for lime addition is installed. ?? The storage tank for hydrochloric acid is well separated form the cyanide storage and preparation units. ?? Sulphur dioxide is delivered in liquid form. The storage capacity for sulphur dioxide is limited, and the tank is placed away from the leach plant. ?? A berm is placed between the sulphur dioxide and the LPG tanks, to avoid mixing of the two gases in the case of simultaneous leaks in both tanks. ?? The leach circuit is connected to a collection pond with volume exceeding 1000 m3, i.e. more than the containing capacity of one leach tank. ?? The leach tanks are placed in a concrete trough with a surrounding berm, which also functions as a collision barrier. The capacity of the trough is exceeding the volume of one leach tank. The floor is heated to avoid build up of snow and ice during winter. ?? Leach tanks placed outdoors are open. Indoor equipment is connected to a gas extraction system with a scrubber operating with NaOH- solution. ?? Backup power generators are installed. ?? All spills will be pumped back to the circuit. References: 1: Weihed, P., Bergman, J. and Bergstrm, U. (1992): Metallogeny and tectonic evolution of the Early Proterozoic Skellefte district, northern Sweden; Precambrian Research 58 (1992) pp 143 167. 2: Allen, R., Weihed, P. and Svenson, S.-. (1997): Setting of Zn-Cu-Ag Massive sulfide Deposits in the Evolution and Facies Architecture of a 1.9 Ga Marine Volcanic Arc, Skellefte District, Sweden; Economic Geology Vol 91/1997, pp 1022 1053 3: Miljbalksutbildningen (1998): Miljbalksutbildningens kompendium i Miljbalken och dess frordningar (Compendium on the new Environmental Act) Miljbalksutbildningen, S-10333 Stockholm, Sweden

4: Swedish Environmental Court , Case M 510-99: Anskningshandlingar samt beslut rrande utbyggnad av anrikningsverket i Boliden samt infrande av lakningsteknik (Permit for Boliden to increase production and introduce a gold leach circuit at the Boliden Mill). Miljdomstolen, Lnsstyrelsen, S-901 86 Ume, Sweden 5: Robbins, G, Devuyst, E,. Malkevich, A., Agius, R., Iamarino, P. and Lindvall, M (2001): Cyanide Management at the Boliden Mill using the Inco SO 2/AIR Process. Paper to be presented at the conference Securing the Future, Skellefte 2001. 6: Lundkvist, A., (2001): Biologiska underskningar i Brubcksystemet (Biological investigations in the Brubcken creek system) Intermediate report, available on request from Boliden 7: Smith and Mudder (1991): Chemistry and treatment of Cyanidation Wastes, Mining Journal Books 8: Eriksson, T. Et al, (Boliden EHS) (2001): BAO Gold Line, Skerhetsrapport (Safety report according to the EG directive 96/82/EG (Seveso II) and Swedish law 1999:381 on Measures to prevent and limit the consequences of serious accidents involving chemical substances. Lnsstyrelsen, S-901 86 Ume, Sweden, or available on request from Boliden