Research using synthetic solutions was conducted to examine factors influencing the natural removal of cyanides from gold mill lagoons. Factors examined included: pH, temperature, ultraviolet irradiation and degree of aeration. Temperature was the principal factor affecting the rate of cyanide loss from solution. UV irradiation had some effect while the effect of aeration was limited. The dominant mechanism for cyanide removal from solution was volatilization. Cyanide degradation was found to follow a first order reaction with respect to free cyanide and metallo-cyanide complexes of Zn, Ni, Cu and Fe.
Data from each single metallo-cyanide solution were fitted to a mathematical model which considered volatilization of free cyanide, dissociation of the metallo-cyanide species, and one cyanide complex per metal. The best estimates of the rate constants found for the single metallo-cyanide solutions were used to simulate the removal characteristics of cyanide in a synthetic mixed solution of four metals. The coefficient of determination ranged from 0.93 to 0.99 for model predictions fitted to data from single metallo-cyanide solutions. Estimates for volatilization coefficients varied widely with some of the variation resulting from data which did not completely describe the decay process. The simulation of cyanide removal from the synthetic mixed solution suggested the need to recalibrate the model or to examine the formation of more than one metallo-cyanide species.