Reclamation of reactive metal oxides from complex minerals using alkali roasting and leaching – an improved approach to process engineering
In nature, the commonly occurring reactive metal oxides of titanium, chromium, aluminium, and vanadium often chemically combine with the transition metal oxides such as iron oxides and form complex minerals. Physico-chemical separation of transition metal oxides from the remaining reactive metal oxides is therefore an important step in the purification of reactive oxide constituents. Each purification step has quite a high energy requirement at present. Current practice in industry yields sulphate and neutralized chloride waste from titanium dioxide enrichment, red mud from bauxite refining, slag and leach residues from vanadium extraction and chromite ore process residue (COPR) from chromate processes. In this review article, a novel alkali-based oxidative roasting and aqueous leaching for the extraction of mineral oxides is explained in the context of the original work of Le Chatelier in 1850, which was unsuccessful in the industrialization of bauxite processing for alumina extraction. However, much later in the 19th century the alkali-based oxidative mineral roasting was successfully developed for industrial scale manufacturing of chromate chemicals, which yields COPR. The crystal chemistry of mineral oxides, namely alumina, titanium dioxide, and chromium oxide in naturally occurring minerals is briefly reviewed in the context of chemical extraction, which is then developed as a model for developing thermodynamic chemical equilibrium principles for analyzing the physical separation and enrichment of such reactive metal oxides by forming water-soluble and water-insoluble alkali complexes. The involvement of the alkali roasting chemistry of non-magnetic titaniferous mineral waste is also reported in the initial separation of rare-earth oxide mixtures for subsequent separation of individual oxides. The paper concludes with a generic approach to process chemistry which minimizes waste generation and therefore helps in reducing the overall process and energy costs. Examples of recovering alkali from high pH solution using carbon dioxide are also demonstrated.