University Of Tasmania
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Geometallurgical characterization of non-ferrous historical slag in Western Tasmania: Identifying reprocessing options

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posted on 2023-05-21, 11:10 authored by Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Gilmour, SM, Fox, N, Paul OlinPaul Olin
Pyrometallurgical processing of ore from the Zeehan mineral field was performed intermittently between 1896 and 1948, primarily recovering Pb, Ag and Cu. While Zn recovery was attempted at the time, it was unsuccessful using the available technology. Consequently, Zn reported to the slag during the smelting process. Today, the former smelter site consists of two large slag piles (North and South). Using a range of techniques (including X-ray diffractometry, scanning electron microscopy, laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, and static testing) the geometallurgical and geo-environmental properties of these slag materials (n = 280) were determined. The South and North piles contain on average 15% and 11% Zn, respectively. A range of complex mineral phases were identified, and are dominated by glass, silicates (i.e., monticellite-kirschsteinite and hardystonite), oxides (gahnite and hercynite) and minor sulfides (sphalerite and wurtzite). Microtextural examinations defined nine mineral phases (Glass A, Silicates A to D, Oxides A and B, Sulfides A and B). Zn was concentrated in Sulfide A (26%), Glass A (24%) and the Silicates (43%), while Pb was concentrated in Oxide B (76%), with Sulfide B host to the highest Ag (45%) and Cu (65%). Considering this, recovery of Zn using conventional hydrometallurgical processes (i.e., sulfuric acid leaching) is suitable, however the application of unconventional biohydrometallurgical techniques could be explored, as well re-smelting. These slag materials are classified geo-environmentally as potentially acid forming, with leachate concentrations of Zn, Pb consistently above ANZECC (2000) aquatic ecosystem 80% protection guideline values, and, for the majority of samples, exceedances of Cu, Ni and Cd were also measured. Considering these findings, reprocessing of these historic slags for Zn extraction may provide an economically feasible management option for rehabilitating this historical site.


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Copyright 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (

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Socio-economic Objectives

Mineral exploration not elsewhere classified; Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences