Heavy Media Separations

Aplan, Frank F.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Introduction Heavy media separation (HMS), also called dense media or float¬sink separation, is one of the newer forms of gravity concentration. Though the concept can be traced to the last century, the process has enjoyed its major growth since 1940. Heavy liquid separation is a mutation. The heavy media process is used extensively to clean coal and for the concentration of a wide variety of ores such as those of iron, lead-zinc, chrome, manganese, tin, tungsten, fluorspar, magnesite, sylvite, garnet, diamonds, gravel, etc. It may be used where ever a significant density difference occurs between two minerals, and commercial separations are typically made in the range of 1.3 to 3.8 sp gr. The particle size treated ranges downward from 6-8 in. top size. Particles greater than about 1/16-in. (10 mesh) may be treated in a "static" bath, though for reasons of separation efficiency, + 1/2 -in- feed is usually preferred. For particles less than this size, separation in a heavy media cyclone is generally used. The flowsheet of a typical heavy media process, in this case one using a ferrous medium, is shown in Fig. I. In essence, the process consists of: (1) preparation of the feed usually by wet screening to remove undesired fines, (2) heavy medium separation, and (3) removal and recovery of the medium from the separated products. Many muta¬tions of the basic scheme are possible and numerous options are possi¬ble. HMS offers the following potential advantages:12 1) Ability to make sharp separations. 2) Ability to change the specific gravity of separation quickly to meet changing conditions. 3) Ability to remove products continuously. 4) Ability to treat a broad size range of products. 5) Ease of start-up and shutdown without loss of separating efficiency. 6) Relatively low medium cost and low media losses. 7) Low operating and maintenance costs. 8) High capacity with the use of relatively little floor space. 9) Relatively low capital investment per ton of capacity. The process may be used to produce a finished concentrate, two finished concentrates, or a concentrate and a middling of differing quality, or a preconcentrate by rejection of unwanted gangue. It is an ideal method for the reprocessing of coarse waste dumps. The greatest use for the process lies in coal cleaning and in the preconcentration of ores. The relatively inexpensive heavy media process may be used advantageously to reject large quantities of coarsely crushed gangue. When used in this way, the process will allow: (1) the use of lower cost but less selective mining methods with the "overbreak" material being removed at the front end of the concentrator or preparation plant; (2) a substantial reduction in the quantity of ore that must be finely ground for subsequent mineral liberation and separa¬tion. Since comminution is often the single most expensive step in beneficiation, it is desirable to eliminate as many essentially barren pieces of rock as possible before the grinding step, (3) a decrease in overall plant capital cost per ton of concentrate since the size of the plant from the dense medium step onward will be smaller. Several general references are available,12-18 though much of the technical data on the process is widely scattered in the general litera¬ture. Heavy Liquid Separation Organic Liquids Given sufficient settling time, it is possible to make a perfect separa¬tion between two particles of differing density by placing them in a liquid whose density is intermediate between the two. This means of achieving a perfect separation has proven to be elusive because of problems in feed preparation, particle settling rates, operational considerations, and economic constraints. There are a wide variety of heavy liquids that could be used, most of them halogenated hydrocarbons, and a few typical examples are given in Table 4. These liquids are most commonly used in ore dressing for the laboratory fractionation of ore particles on the basis of specific gravity. Laboratory Separations. Using liquids typified by those given in Table 4, separations are made to develop either the standard washability curves used to estimate the response of a given sample to gravity concentration or to prepare a partition curve to evaluate the effective¬ness of a given gravity separation process or piece of equipment. A typical washability curve is given in Fig. 2.19 Such curves are generated for raw coal, e.g., by treating either the whole or various size fractions of the sample in a series of heavy liquids and analyzing the various specific gravity fractions so produced. The procedure is relatively simple for coal samples because of the ready availability of a wide variety of relatively low cost heavy liquids in the density range 1.2¬-2.0. For ores the problem is much more complicated, because only a few high density liquids, all of rather high cost, are available. Parti¬tion curves are generated in the same manner by treating the separated products in the same liquids. Greater details on the procedures to be used in heavy liquid separa¬tions are to be found in the literature (for coal, Refs. 13, 14 and 19 and for ore, Refs. 20 and 21). For testing coal, calcium and zinc chloride solutions have been used extensively in the past, though today halogenated hydrocarbons (available under the trade name Certigrav) are the preferred media. The liquids shown in Table 4 may
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