Nickel-lateritic ore is the most common source of nickel in Brazil. The Niquelândia deposit, located in State of Goias, is one of the most famous deposits due to the large amounts of nickel associated with both oxidized and mainly silicated ores. The terms oxidized and silicated ores are used to specify two different ores formed exclusively by oxides and silicate (clay) minerals, respectively. The aim of the present study was to characterize thoroughly the silicated ore to identify the Ni-bearing clay minerals and their crystal chemistry in support of developing a better mineral-processing method or optimizing the current one to improve Ni recoveries. X-ray diffraction, chemical analyses, scanning electron microscopy, and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy demonstrated that nickel is associated with Ni-rich stevensite and to a lesser extent with Fe-rich montmorillonite. The crystal chemistry performed by FTIR spectroscopy revealed that Ni is present in the octahedral positions, substituting for Mg or Fe, which results in significant chemical and layer-charge heterogeneity in the samples. This heterogeneity seems to be responsible for reduction in Ni recoveries during the hydrometallurgical process.

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