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Leaching Behaviour of a Low-grade South African Nickel Laterite
The morphology, mineralogical and chemical composition of a low-grade nickel ore from Mpumalanga, South Africa, were studied by scanning electron microscope (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and X-ray fluorescence (XRF), respectively. The ore was subjected to atmospheric agitation leaching using sulphuric acid to investigate the effects of acid concentration, leaching temperature, leaching time and particle size on extraction of nickel and cobalt. Analyses results indicated the ore to be a saprolitic nickel laterite belonging to the serpentine group of minerals. Sulphuric acid was found to be able to extract nickel from the ore. Increased acid concentration and temperature only produced low amounts of nickel but improved cobalt extraction. As high as 77.44% Ni was achieved when leaching a -106+75μm fraction with 4.0M acid concentration at 25oC. The kinetics of nickel leaching from the saprolitic ore were studied and the activation energy was determined to be 18.16kJ/mol. This indicated that nickel leaching reaction was diffusion controlled.
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