Zircon Surface Characterization
Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Jan 1, 2007
Paper written on project work carried out in partial fulfilment of B Eng Met Surface coatings persisting on zircon particles, after being leached in an acidic solution, are believed to be the cause of zircon misplacement during the electrostatic separation of heavy mineral beach sands. Electrostatic separation is employed to separate non-conductive zircon particles from more conductive rutile particles. Surface coatings on zircon particles are believed to render the non-conductive zircon particles more conductive, resulting in the contamination of the more conductive rutile stream with zircon particles. Resistivity measurements, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were performed to compare the surface characteristics of zircon particles found in the different product streams following electrostatic separation. XPS analysis showed that no significant difference exists in the outermost layer of the zircon particles found in the different streams. SEM analysis showed the existing surface coatings on zircon particles from different product streams to have similar chemical compositions. Resistivity measurements confirmed the results obtained from both the XPS and SEM analysis; no significant differences in the resitivities were observed. From the results obtained it suggests that surface coatings present on zircon particles are unlikely the primary cause of zircon misplacement. Zircon losses can possibly be a result of machine related aspects. Key words: XPS; SEM; resistivity measurements; electrostatic separation; heavy mineral sands.