Minerals and Their Properties: Properties of Minerals

Bolles, John L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 17
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
The mineral processing engineer must have some knowledge of mineral identification, and the greater his knowledge in this field, the greater will be his potential to do his own specialty well. Most metal-bearing ores and industrial minerals require processing of some kind to produce a salable product or a material suitable for further processing. The types of treatment are many, but each one is aimed at separating a mineral or family of minerals from others. Obviously, then, it is basic to all mineral processing to identify the minerals present in the raw material and in intermediate and final products resulting from processing. Very often the mineral processing engineer will enter planning while exploration of a mineral prospect is going on. He will examine hand specimens, drill cores and cuttings, bulk samples, and materials in place. He must identify the valuable minerals, their occurrence and associations with other minerals, and the identity of diluents or host rock. An exact and detailed knowledge of the raw material will usually suggest the treatment processes that should be investigated in the development of the most suitable scheme for that particular raw material in that particular location. Physical properties of a mineral often lead directly to a process for separating that mineral from others. Some well-known examples of these are: magnetic separations for such minerals as magnetite, rutile, ilmenite; gravity separations for gold, silver, galena. cassiterite; flotation separation for most sulfides; distillation of mercury from cinnabar; and selective dissolution in specific solvents such as halite or sylvite in water, gold and silver in cyanide solutions, copper oxides, carbonates, sulfates and silicates in dilute sulfuric acid. These processes and many others are described in detail elsewhere in the Hand¬book and so it is not appropriate to give details here, except to emphasize that processing is aided greatly by complete mineral identi¬fication. Developing a treatment scheme for a new mineral discovery is an exciting assignment fag the mineral processing engineer, but much more of the usual work relates to quality control in existing plants. Here too, mineral identification is important. Some processing is aimed toward producing an end product which will meet exacting specifica¬tions regarding purity or allowable diluents. In this situation it is vital that contaminants be identified so that the process can be adjusted
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