Nickel is recovered through extractive metallurgy. Most sulfide ores have traditionally been processed
using pyrometallurgical techniques to produce a matte for further refining. Recent advances in hydrometallurgy have resulted in recent nickel processing operations being developed using these processes. Most sulfide deposits have traditionally been processed by concentration through a froth flotation process followed by pyrometallurgical extraction.
Nickel is extracted from its ores by conventional roasting and reduction processes which yield a metal of greater than 75% purity. Final purification of nickel oxides is performed via the Mond process, which increases the nickel concentrate to greater than 99.99% purity. This process was patented by L. Mond and was used in South Wales in the 20th century. Nickel is reacted with carbon monoxide at around 50 °C to form volatile nickel carbonyl. Any impurities remain solid while the nickel carbonyl gas passes into a large chamber at high temperatures in which tens of thousands of nickel spheres, called pellets, are constantly stirred. The nickel carbonyl decomposes, depositing pure nickel onto the nickel spheres. Alternatively, the nickel carbonyl may be decomposed in a smaller chamber at 230 °C to create fine nickel powder. The resultant carbon monoxide is re-circulated through the process. The highly pure nickel produced by this process is known as carbonyl nickel. A second common form of refining involves the leaching of the metal matte followed by the electro-winning of the nickel from solution by plating it onto a cathode. In many stainless steel applications, 75% pure nickel can be used without further purification depending on the composition of the impurities.
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