In this study, the removal of free cyanide from aqueous solutions by activated carbon was investigated. Effects of metal impregnation (Cu and Ag), aeration, and concentrations of adsorbent and cyanide on the rate and extent of the removal of cyanide were studied. The results have shown that the capacity of activated carbon for the removal of cyanide can be significantly improved (up to 6.3-fold) via impregnation of activated carbon with metals such as copper and silver. Silver-impregnated activated carbon was found to be the most effective at the reduction of cyanide level in solution. This appeared to be coupled with its comparatively high metal content after impregnation process where silver (5.07%) could be more readily loaded on activated carbon than copper (0.43%). Kinetics and equilibrium data for cyanide removal by plain and metal-impregnated activated carbons were determined to be consistent with the pseudo second-order kinetics and the Langmuir adsorption isotherms, respectively. Aeration (0.27 1/min) was found to exert a profound effect on the process leading to a 5.5-49.1% enhancement in the performances of plain and metal-impregnated activated carbons. This enhancement could be attributed to the increase in the availability of active sites on activated carbon for adsorption and the catalytic oxidising activity of activated carbon in the presence of oxygen. Practical limiting capacity of plain, copper- and silver-impregnated activated carbons for the removal of cyanide were experimentally determined to be 19.7, 22.4 and 29.6 mg/g, respectively. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.