High-Fe and low-Fe sphalerite samples were reacted under controlled pH conditions to determine nonoxidative rates of release of Zn and trace metals from the solid-phase. The release (solubilization) of trace metals from dissolving sphalerite to the aqueous phase can be characterized by a kinetic distribution coefficient, (Dtr), which is defined as [(Rtr/X(tr)Sph)/(RZn/X(Zn) Sph)], where R is the trace metal or Zn release rate, and X is the mole fraction of the trace metal or Zn in sphalerite. This coefficient describes the relationship of the sphalerite dissolution rate to the trace metal mole fraction in the solid and its aqueous concentration. The distribution was used to determine some controls on metal release during the dissolution of sphalerite. Departures from the ideal Dtr of 1.0 suggest that some trace metals may be released via different pathways or that other processes (e.g., adsorption, solubility of trace minerals such as galena) affect the observed concentration of metals. Nonoxidative sphalerite dissolution (mediated by H+) is characterized by a "fast" stage in the first 24-30 h, followed by a "slow" stage for the remainder of the reaction. Over the pH range 2.0-4.0, and for similar extent of reaction (reaction time), sphalerite composition, and surface area, the rates of release of Zn, Fe, Cd, Cu, Mn and Pb from sphalerite generally increase with lower pH. Zinc and Fe exhibit the fastest rates of release, Mn and Pb have intermediate rates of release, and Cd and Cu show the slowest rates of release. The largest variations in metal release rates occur at pH 2.0. At pH 3.0 and 4.0, release rates show less variation and appear less dependent on the metal abundance in the solid. For the same extent of reaction (100 h), rates of Zn release range from 1.53 ?? 10-11 to 5.72 ?? 10-10 mol/m2/s; for Fe, the range is from 4.59 ?? 10-13 to 1.99 ?? 10-10 mol/m2/s. Trace metal release rates are generally 1-5 orders of magnitude slower than the Zn or Fe rates. Results indicate that the distributions of Fe and Cd are directly related to the rate of sphalerite dissolution throughout the reaction at pH 3.0 and 4.0 because these two elements substitute readily into sphalerite. These two metals are likely to be more amenable to usage in predictive acid dissolution models because of this behavior. The Pb distribution shows no strong relation to sphalerite dissolution and appears to be controlled by pH-dependent solubility, most likely related to trace amounts of galena. The distribution of Cu is similar to that of Fe but is the most-dependent of all metals on its mole fraction ratio (Zn:Cu) in sphalerite. The Mn distributions suggest an increase in the rate of Mn release relative to sphalerite dissolution occurs in low Mn samples as pH increases. The Mn distribution in high Mn samples is nearly independent of pH and sphalerite dissolution at pH 2.0 but shows a dependence on these two parameters at higher pH (3.0-4.0).
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Rates of zinc and trace metal release from dissolving sphalerite at pH 2.0-4.0