Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 110
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
INTRODUCTION From its beginnings in the first decade of this century, flotation has gradually moved to a predominant role in mineral separation. There are several reasons for this, the continuing trend toward treat¬ment of lower-grade and more finely disseminated ores being the major one. Not only has this been true for sulfide ores to which the process was first applied commercially, but also for most nonsulfide ores as well. A second factor has been the broad applicability of the process with respect to particle size; it is effective from 8 to 10 mesh to below 10m. Finally, more so than for any other separation process, flotation has almost no limitations in separating minerals. Gravity, magnetic, or electrostatic processes are either applicable to particular minerals, or to a restricted number of mineral combinations. Flotation, on the other hand, can utilize the wide range of surface chemical differences among minerals, and an equally wide range of reagents. The recent availability of selective flocculation capabilities on a commercial scale as an adjunct to flotation should remove one of the limitations to the process in the very fine particle range. History Although flotation was anticipated in a 19th century patent to Haynes, its first significant industrial uses were in the early 20th century in Australia. According to Hoover,' the Pottter-Del-prat pro¬cess had a "measure of success" at Broken Hill's Block 14 mine in 1905-1906, and was definitely successful at the BHP Mine, where it produced 80,000 tpy of zinc concentrates. Both the Mineral Separa¬tion and the Elmore processes had early trials in Australia also, with both successes and failures. The first application in the United States was in 1911, when the Hyde process was used by the Butte and Superior Copper Co. on a zinc ore in Montana. By 1916 Hoover could list 46 applications to copper, lead, and zinc ores, mainly in the United States. Ten years later Taggart2 listed almost a thousand patents covering processes and reagents which with few exceptions laid the foundations for modern practice. Included were: sulfidizing of oxides; leach-precip¬itation-flotation; cyanides, sulfites, sulfides, and oxidants for selective depression of sulfides; starch, tannin, and glue as depressants; and xanthates, dithiophosphates, and oleic acid as collectors. Within an¬other 20 years, all of these were in commercial use along with amines for floating silica from phosphates, and synthetic frothers were com¬peting with pine oil and cresylic acid. Flotation machine development followed a different course. Of the 170 patents listed by Taggart in 1927,1 those incorporating film and oil flotation-about a third of the total-were no longer then
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