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Extractive Metallurgy

of Gold
1. Historical Introduction

Fathi Habashi
Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering
Laval University, Quebec City, Canada
Bishop Franois de Laval

1663 Seminary
1852 University
Quebec City
Our university
Le Sminaire de Qubec

Universit Laval

Facult de thologie Facult de mdecine Facult de droit Facult des arts

1852 1853 1854 1854

cole normale

cole de chimie Section des lettres

Facult des sciences


cole suprieure cole des mines, de la

de chimie gologie et de la mtallurgie

Dpartement de mines Dpartement

et mtallurgie de gologie

Programme mines Programme mtallurgie

1939 1940


Our winter
The process of learning
See text
Hear presentation
Read about the text and the presentation
A picture is better that hundred words
Historical background is very useful
Knowledge must be well organized
- Information is like a house, not a pile of stones
Course on Gold
1- Introduction
2- Amalgamation
3- Occurrence
4- Beneficiation of ores
5- Liberation of minerals
6- Separation of minerals
7- Cyanidation
8- Engineering
9- Gold - copper ores
10- Enrichment in solution
11- Recovery of gold from solution
12- Refining of gold
13- Anodic slimes
14- Environmental problems
15- References
Gold has a special place among metals
It is the oldest metal exploited by man
It is highly prized
It was the ultimate goal of alchemists
It has been the inspiration of numerous myths
It plays an important role in world economics
It caused wars and unprecedented mass migrations
It was responsible for creating many large cities
It was responsible for digging Panama Canal
It was responsible for enriching the Portuguese
Emperors when discovered in Brazil
It is stored in the vaults of banks
It is widely on display in oriental bazaars
It is generously used in decorating churches and
That is why prospectors and
adventurers rush to the scene
as soon as news of a gold
discovery are rumoured.
First exploited by the ancient Egyptians
The basis of currency
Mass migrations to USA, Canada,
Australia, etc.
San Francisco, Johannesburg, Sydney,
Denver, etc.
An ounce costs $ 1800
An ounce of gold
From ancient times to the
present day gold has been
valued by man.
Egypt was the principal gold-
producing country in ancient
times. Coptos, the present
Quft on the eastern side of the
River Nile, was the chief town
of the Nomos of Harawi and
was once politically
important, but under the
eleventh dynasty (21331991
BC) it was overshadowed by
Thebes, 50km to the south,
which became the capital of
the Middle Kingdom (2133
BC) of ancient Egypt, the
present day Luxor
Coptos was the worlds first gold boom town.
It was there in the Wadi Hammamat that alluvial
gold had been washed down from the gold-
bearing veins found later in the granite hills
The worlds oldest mine map, which is made on
papyrus and held at the Turin Museum (Museo
Egizio di Torino) in Italy, shows the huts of the
Egyptian miners, the road to the gold mines and
the hills within which the gold veins occurred.
Ancient Egyptian
statue made of solid
Melting of gold
Gold mines in the Kingdom of Kush
Beating of gold
Ancient Georgia and the story of Golden
The alchemists transmutation of metals
Alexandria began to flourish in the
Hellenistic period. In the year 200 BC, she
was the largest city in the world and an
important cultural centre.
Transmutation of base metals into gold
Gold and the alchemists

Gold occurred in nature in the native state and simple

panning was enough to collect the glittering particles,
and sometimes nuggets, which could readily be melted
to obtain an ingot.
However, since this required great patience and hard
work, the alchemists thought of a faster way:
transmutation of base metals into gold.
When an alchemist dipped a piece of iron into a solution
of copper vitriol, i.e., copper sulfate, the iron was
immediately covered by a layer of metallic copper.
This apparent transmutation of iron into copper is
represented in modern terms by the equation:
Cu2+ + Fe Cu + Fe2+
How can the transmutation of iron
or copper into gold be effected?
Gold, the most noble of all metals, was
insoluble in all acids and alkalies known at
that time.
Aqua Regia
It was the Arab alchemist
Jabir Ibn Hayyan (720-813
AD) who discovered that
a mixture of hydrochloric
and nitric acids can
dissolve the noble metal,
neither of which alone
can attack gold.
In modern terms the
action of the mixture is
due to chlorine and
nitrosyl chloride:
3HCl + HNO3 Cl2
+ NOCl + 2H2O
Gold in the Greek Empire
From ancient times,
extensive trade
existed between the
Greeks and their
Etruscan Gold
Phoenician Gold
Gold in the
Trajan Column in
Loading of gold riches from Dacia (roughly modern

Transylvania in Romania)
Byzantine Empire
Gold in the Far East
Gupta Empire in India
American Indian Empires
Metals in black Africa had magico-religious associations.
The smith was, in some places, considered as a
religious leader, and in others he was cursed because
he made weapons.
The bellows and the hammers do supernatural work.
Mining taboos were many and various. Miners had to
pacify the hill spirit presiding over the mines, not only to
obtain good metal, but also to prevent the mines from
Gold rushes started in California in 1848 and from there it
started in Australia. From Australia, the gold seekers went to
New Zealand then in other countries ending in 1929 with the
Great Depression.
Gold discoveries resulted in mass movement of gold miners in
North America and South Africa but not in other countries. In
Imperial Russia, for example, the local authorities did not want
any social disturbance when gold was discovered in 1813 and
feared to create chaos in the area populated by serfs. Also in
Australia the authorities did not want to let the largely convict
population know about the presence of gold in New South
Wales for fear of creating an uncontrolled gold rush in the area.
In South Africa, on the other hand, gold discovery resulted in a
war between the Dutch settlers and the British from 1899 to
1902 that became known as the Boer War. South Africa had
also a diamond rush few years earlier [in 1869] near the Orange
Gold rushes were responsible for development of California,
Alaska and the Canadian North, creating new cities and
founding Schools of Mines in most of the regions where gold
was found.
Klondike Gold Rush
Klondike Gold Rush
Gold and the Russian Revolution
During the Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War
that followed, gold mining was interrupted.
When the Soviets took over the Government the
philosophy at that time, as formulated by Karl
Marx, was that gold will eventually lose its value
when Communism prevails and that is why there
was no interest to explore for gold and all effort
was to be directed to iron and steel.
Stalin and the Gold Rush
When Stalin came to power in 1922 he was much impressed by
the California Gold Rush after reading a number of books on
this subject.
Fearing Japanese imperialism to occupy the sparsely
populated eastern provinces he thought that the best way to
populate these regions and to stand against such threat was to
explore for gold and open the region for miners like what
happened in California.
In 1927 he sent a Professor at the Moscow School of Mines to
the United States to hire an American mining engineer working
in the gold mines in Alaska to develop the gold industry in
A Gold Trust was being established and many miners from
Germany and other countries were hired, and mining
equipment was purchased. Prospectors and miners were
encouraged to search for gold and so the Russian Gold Rush
After World War II the USSR became the second gold producer in the
In Banks