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Beneficiation of recycled process water at DRDGOLD's ERGO plant, and its effect on gold recovery

Narain, A, Potgieter, JH, Rencken, GE and Smith, J (2021) Beneficiation of recycled process water at DRDGOLD's ERGO plant, and its effect on gold recovery. Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, 121 (7). pp. 331-343. ISSN 0038-223X

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Abstract

To conserve fresh water resources and comply with environmental regulations, DRDGOLD, a South African gold producer re-treating surface tailings, has transitioned to a fully closed water circulation system. Consequently, the accumulation of contaminants, as well as addition of reagents, has led to changes in water composition that have compromised leach performance and overall gold recovery. A two-sample t-test confirmed a significant difference in gold recoveries between the use of Rand Water, which was used as a benchmark, and untreated process water. Atomic absorption analysis of ERGO’s process water, confirmed the presence of iron, nickel, zinc, and manganese. A study of the effect of the identified contaminants on gold recovery showed that iron, nickel, and zinc have the largest negative effect on gold recovery, with iron and nickel being more detrimental than zinc. Sulphates were shown to have a possible passivation effect, which also influenced gold recoveries, although to a lesser extent than the heavy metals. Calcium, when present in excess, had a positive influence on gold recovery indicating the possible formation of a calcium aurocyanide complex. Lime softening successfully reduced the heavy metal and sulphate concentrations, and the gold recoveries obtained with the treated process water were similar to those as achieved with Rand Water.

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