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The patio Process and Smelting at Regla

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Chapter Summary

On average the quality of the silver sulphide ore refined by the patio process was 0.19 % silver by weight, and 1.9 % silver by weight for smelting. The consumption of mercury, salt and copper sulphate at Regla lies on the lower range of the historical scale, but not outside the expected parameters. Only the efficiency of the refining stages improved, as shown by the marked reduction in the use of charcoal for smelting, or the late switch to faster turn-around times for the tortas in the patio reactor, but not its chemical underpinning.The mercury legacy of silver refining at Regla lies dormant underground, as calomel entombed along river beds or as mercury impregnating the soil within the hacienda, but only a minor fraction as mercury dispersed long ago in the air. The air at Regla was the domain of dust from the morteros or the lead fume from the blast furnaces and reverberatory ovens. There is no evidence of an attempt by the English or Mexican operators to control and collect the lead fumes. The calculation of the mass balance of these processes, based on historical accounting records, has proved to be a very powerful tool to quantify the environmental impact of a historic industrial process.



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