Metalliferous products containing silver arise in many operations; the chief products which may yield silver economically are copper and lead mattes, burnt argentiferous pyrites and certain drosses and scums. Argentiferous ores consist of silver-bearing base-metal minerals and gangue.
Solid matter in suspension varies so slightly with the temperature that practically it remains constant, the hot liquor rises to the top of the vessel, and the scums 'and particles of solid matter in suspension separate themselves from it and fall to the bottom.
The scums then settle down to the bottom of the cone, whence they are run off to the scum tank.
If double-bottomed defecators are used in sufficient number to allow an hour and a half to two hours for making each defecation, and if they are of a size which permits any one of them to be filled up by the cane-mill with juice in ten to twelve minutes, they will make as perfect a defecation as is obtainable by any known system; but their employment involves the expenditure of much high-pressure steam (as exhaust steam will not heat the juice quickly enough through the small surface of the hemispherical inner bottom), and also the use of filter presses for treating the scums. A great deal of skilled superintendence is also required, and first cost is comparatively large.
When a sufficient number are not available for a two hours' defecation, it is the practice in some factories to skim off the scums that rise to the top, and then boil up the juice for a few minutes and skim again, and, after repeating the operation once or twice, to run off the juice to separators or subsiders of any of the kinds previously described.