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Structural, compositional and mineralogical characterization of carbonatitic copper sulfide: Run of mine, concentrate and tailings


The aim of this study was to determine the structural, compositional, and mineralogical composition of carbonatitic copper sulfide concentrator plant streams. Three samples, each from a different stream (run of mine (ROM), concentrate, and tailings) of a copper concentrator were characterized using various techniques, including stereomicroscopy, X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in conjunction with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and optical microscopy. The results reveal that each stream possesses its own unique compositional features. Carbonate minerals associated with calcite and dolomite, followed by quartz, remain the major minerals in both the ROM and tails streams. In the ROM stream, chalcopyrite appears to occur as veins within the carbonatite-hosting ore body. Mineral phase mutation was discovered in the tails stream because magnetite formerly identified in the ROM as the primary iron oxide had evolved into hematite. This metamorphosis was likely promoted by the concentration process. The concentration process was effective, upgrading the chalcopyrite content from 2wt% in the ROM stream to 58wt% in the concentrate stream; it was accompanied by bornite (4wt%), anilite (3wt%), and digenite (2.5wt%). In addition, the concentrate stream exhibited properties distinctive from those of the other streams. The FTIR analysis showed the existence of a sulfide group related to the chalcopyrite mineral. Free chalcopyrite grains were observed in the concentrate by SEM analysis, and their mineral presence was supported by the EDS analysis results. All characterization techniques corresponded well with each other regarding the structure, chemistry, and composition of the samples.

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The authors are thankful to the sponsors from the North-West University and the National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and therefore the NRF does not accept any liability in regard thereto. Lastly, the local South African mining company who participated in this research by providing the samples, the extraction metallurgy laboratory at the University of Johannesburg for equipment utilization, and the chemical engineering department at the North-West University for the support and promotion of this research are also acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Elvis Fosso-Kankeu.

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Nyembwe, K.J., Fosso-Kankeu, E., Waanders, F. et al. Structural, compositional and mineralogical characterization of carbonatitic copper sulfide: Run of mine, concentrate and tailings. Int J Miner Metall Mater 26, 143–151 (2019).

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  • chalcopyrite
  • mineral characterization
  • phase mutation
  • concentrate streams