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Hydrometallurgy

What is Hydrometallurgy for?
Hydrometallurgy is part of the field of extractive metallurgy and involves aqueous chemistry to recover minerals from ores, concentrate metals or recover residual materials.
The history of hydrometallurgy is as old as pyrometallurgy, but it began to flourish only after the rise of the chemical industry in modern times. At present, all of the world's Alumina, Uranium oxide, nearly three-quarters of Zinc, and one-tenth of Copper are produced by the wet process/hydrometallurgy. In addition, there are some Gold, Silver, Nickel, Cobalt, Aluminum, Tungsten, Molybdenum, Vanadium, and so on, are also refined by hydrometallurgy.

I,Hydrometallurgy vs pyrometallurgy

Applicability to very low-grade ores (Gold, Uranium) and to difficult separation of similar metals (Hafnium and Zirconium). In pyrometallurgy, the turnover of materials is relatively simple, and the degree of comprehensive recovery of valuable metals from raw materials is high.
Compared with pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy is conducive to environmental protection, and the production process is easier to achieve continuity and automation.

II,Why there are so many Hydrometallurgy equipment types?

Hydrometallurgy includes liquid-solid, gas-liquid, gas-solid-liquid, liquid-liquid, and other multi-phase reaction processes.
The reaction is generally carried out at a constant temperature, and depending on the needs of the reaction process, the operating temperature may range from room temperature to high temperature (about 573K), and the corresponding reactor pressure may be raised to 8.6MPa. Therefore, there are various types of equipment used in hydrometallurgical reaction processes, and there are lots of ways to categorize them.
For example:
They can be categorized according to the operation mode, system phase state, operating temperature, etc., but they are mainly categorized by the type of equipment. The same type of equipment is used for different reaction processes, and its internal structure may be different. Due to the different types of metals, especially the complexities of the composition of the ore, the design institute usually designs custom processes according to the actual situation in the engineering design.
The types of hydrometallurgy equipment need to comply with the processes. Generally speaking, among the several major steps of hydrometallurgy, the steps used reactor are leaching, crystallization, distillation, and extraction.
As of July 2023, WHGCM has designed and manufactured reactors according to the reaction conditions provided by the design institutes.
Tank leaching reactor
It is a typical reactor used in the metallurgy industry.
It is a continuous pressurized oxidation leaching reaction equipment used for the chemical treatment of metal mineral raw materials in an aqueous solution of strong acidic medium or strong alkaline medium or organic solvent extraction, separation of impurities, and stripping of metals and their compounds.
Hydrometallurgy reactor photo

III,Classified as processes

3.1Tank leaching kettle / Agitation leaching reactor

It is a cylindrical structure with a relatively small diameter, having stirring paddle stirring, gas stirring, gas stirring paddle joint stirring and jet pump stirring, and other forms of stirring. It mixes the crushed and graded materials and leaching solution. During the continuous operation, the composition and temperature are uniform inside the reactor. It is easy to operate.

3.2 Autoclave leaching kettle/reactor

An Autoclave reactor is used to carry out reactions at higher temperatures, which can improve the reaction speed. Similarly, autoclaves can be used in systems with gaseous reagents.

3.3 Crystallization reactor

According to the way of supersaturated solution production, this reactor can be divided into cooling, evaporation, vacuum, and salt precipitation crystallization of four kinds of reactors.

3.4 Distillation kettle

Distillation is one of the important processes of non-ferrous metal extraction metallurgy, commonly used in zinc, cadmium, mercury, selenium, gallium, lithium, rubidium, cesium alloy separation, and refining. The above are the four types of reactors that we (WHGCM) have made for our customers so far. Of course, WHGCM will continue customizing the mixing vessel and facilities according to the customer's requirements to empower the wet metallurgy industrial companies.

IV,Classified as per products

4.1 Gold Extraction:

Reactor types: stirred leaching reactors, adsorption towers, etc.
Advantages: Stirred leaching reactor can efficiently mix the ore and leaching solution to accelerate the dissolution process of gold. Adsorption tower is used for gold adsorption and desorption, which can separate gold effectively.

4.2 Copper smelting:

Reactor type: stirred leaching reactor, extraction tower, etc.
Advantage: Stirring leaching reactor is used for the leaching of copper from copper ore, so that the copper is dissolved in the leaching solution. Extraction towers are used to separate and enrich copper from the leach solution.
Copper smelting reactor

4.3 Rare metal extraction:

Reactor types: autoclave reactors, solvent extraction units, etc.
Advantages: Autoclave reactors can be used to process difficult ores, e.g. to extract rare metals at high temperatures and pressures. Solvent extraction units allow efficient separation and enrichment of rare metals.

4.4 Nuclear waste treatment:

Reactor types: autoclave reactors, crystallisation reactors, etc.
Advantages: Autoclave reactors can be used to treat nuclear waste at high temperatures and pressures for the conversion and separation of radioactive substances. Crystallisation reactors are used to precipitate radioactive substances from the treatment liquid and achieve purification of the waste liquid.
Nuclear waste treatment reactor

4.5 Battery material preparation:

Reactor type: crystallisation reactor, distillation reactor, etc.
Advantages: Crystallisation reactors are used to separate and purify metallic materials from solutions, e.g. to recover metals from battery waste. Distillation kettles are used for extraction and purification of metals from battery materials.
Battery material preparation reactor

4.6 Disposal of waste electronic equipment:

Reactor types: solvent extraction units, crystallisation reactors, etc.
Advantages: Solvent extraction units are used to extract valuable metals from waste electronic equipment and crystallisation reactors are used to separate and recover metal compounds.
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