It is known that the presence of excess fines in heap leaching operations may cause low recovery due to reduced heap permeability and/or channeling of lixiviant flow. These problems are mitigated to some extent by agglomeration pretreatment prior to heap leaching. Sulfuric acid leach solution is the conventional liquid bridge used for copper ore agglomeration, but these agglomerates exhibit poor stability when compared to the agglomerates formed using stucco binder, calcium sulfate hemihydrates, CaSO(4)center dot 1/2H(2)O. Results obtained from agglomeration experiments on the Zaldivar ore reveal that the stucco hydration reaction provides the agglomerates with more stability, increased size with less release of fines, and better permeability of the packed agglomerate bed. A phase diagram has been constructed to identify preferred agglomeration conditions. Finally a proposed description for the action of stucco binder during the agglomeration process is presented and discussed. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.