What is Heap Leaching?

PPM Global’s heap leach support services have improved mineral extraction efficiencies, of heap leach or leach pad projects around the world.

A leach pad is defined as a continuously lined area which may contain one or more ‘heaps’.

Leach Heaps (Cells) are stacked on prepared pads to a height from 4m to 8m high. The nominal heap leach height is 6 metres. The heaps can be approximately 50-60m wide. Heaps may contain between 50,000t and 250,000t of ore each. Heap leach solution is irrigated over the ore and percolates by gravity through the ore. The solution is collected at the base of the leach pad in a collection drainage system. While the solution (eg acid) passes through the ore, various metal ions are dissolved in solution. Eg copper (Cu), in a copper-bearing deposit. Copper is dissolved from the ore into the passing leach solution (Leachate). The primary chemical in the leach solution is sulphuric acid (H2SO4). The copper (Cu) is solubilised (dissolved into solution) according to the following simplified reaction:

heap leach reaction equation

The irrigated solution (raffinate) averages approximately 1-2 g/L of copper and 20 g/L free acid. The solution discharging from the heaps, pregnant leach solution (PLS) will vary in copper concentration over the life of the heap, initial grades may be as high as 50 g/L of copper. Heap leaching technicians might only get PLS grades only fractionally greater than the raffinate irrigated after raffinate has been circulated a number of times.

Air is forced into the heaps via a network of pipes located 1m above the base of each heap. The target minimum air flow rate for heap leaching is one meter cubed of air, per one meter squared of leach pad area, per hour (1.0m3/m2.Hr). The air provides oxygen to both the organic and inorganic reactions for better heap leaching. Within limitations, increasing the amount of airflow into a heap leaching project will increase the temperature within the heap. Conversely increasing the flow of raffinate to the ore will reduce the temperature of the heap.


  • Design of new heap leaching circuits.
  • Heap leach test work scope development.
  • Columns leach data interpretation.
  • Heap leaching optimisation/troubleshooting.
  • Heap leach commissioning, and consulting assistance.
  • Heap leach training services requirements for minerals leaching process personnel.

Heap Leach Overview

heap leach process overview

Phone our expert heap leaching consultants today to discuss how PPM Global can assist you with heap leach support.

Heap leaching to SX/EW