Cation Exchange Capacities, Swelling, and Solubility of Clay Minerals in Acidic Solutions : A Literature Review

  • Park, Won Choon
  • Published : 1979.03.31


A literature review is made on the physical and chemical characteristics of clay minerals in acidic solutions from the mineralogical and hydrometallurgical viewpoints. Some of the important characteristics of clays are their ability to cation exchange, swelling, and incongruent dissolution in acidic solutions. Various clay minerals can take up metallic ions from solution via cation exchange mechanism. Generally, cation exchange capacity increases in the following order : kaolinite, halloysite, illite, vermiculite, and montmorillonite. In acidic solutions, the cation uptake such as copper by clay minerals is strongly inhibited by hydrogen and aluminum ions and thus is not economically significant factor for recovery of metals such as uranium and copper. In acidic solutions, the cation uptake is substial. Swelling is minimal at lower pH, possibly due to lattice collapse. Swelling may be controllable with montmorillonite type clays by exchanging interlayer sodium with lithium and/or hydroxylated aluminum species. The effect of add on clay minerals are : 1. Division of aggregates into smaller plates with increase in surface area and porosity. 2. Clay-acid reactions occur in the following order: (i) $H^+$ replacement of interlayer cations, (ii) removal of octahedral cations, such as Al, Fe, and Mg, and (iii) removal of tetrahedral Al ions. Acid attack initiates, around the edges of the clay particles and continued inward, leaving hydrated silica gel residue around the edges. 3. Reaction rates of (ii) and (iii) are pseudo-1st order and proportional to acid concentration. Rate doubles for every temperature increment of $10^{\circ}C$. Implications in in-situ leaching of copper or uranium with acid are : 1. Over the life span of the operation for a year or more, clays attacked by acid will leave silica gel. If such gel covers the surface of valuable mineral surfaces being leached, recovery could be substantially delayed. 2. For a copper deposit containing 0.5% each of clay minerals and recoverable copper, the added cost due to clay-acid reaction is about 1.5c/lb of copper (or 0.93 lbs of $H_2SO_4/1b$ of copper). This acid consumption by clay may be a factor for economic evaluation of in-situ leaching of an oxide copper deposit.