Electrochemical study of multielectrode systems and their relevance to the differential flotation of complex sulfide ores (Technical Note)

Cheng, X. ; Iwasaki, I ; Smith, K. A.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 3
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Introduction The separation of minerals from complex sulfide ores by flotation requires careful control of the surface chemical behaviors of the minerals constituting the ores. When the minerals in the ore are finely disseminated, extremely fine grinding is needed to liberate the minerals. Fine grinding is not only an energy-intensive operation, but also influences the flotation behaviors of liberated minerals. Steel balls are commonly used for grinding. Galvanic interactions occur not only between sulfide minerals and grinding media but also among the different sulfide minerals themselves. The electrochemical characteristics of chalcopyrite and pyrrhotite when they are independently coupled with steel grinding media and the relevance of these characteristics to the flotation behavior of these minerals have been exten¬sively studied (Cheng and Iwasaki, 1992: Li and Iwasaki, 1992). These studies dealt with reactions in two electrode combinations, simulating mineral-grinding medium and mineral-mineral interactions. In practice, however, it is more common to involve more than one sulfide mineral. In a study of a pyrite-pyrrhotite-mild steel system, Pozzo et al. (1989) provided evidence that a mineral having an intermediate potential could behave differently, depending on the condi¬tion of galvanic contact. This investigation was undertaken to study a chalcopyrite-pyrrhotite-mild steel system to gain better in¬sight into the mechanism of multiple galvanic interactions. A three-electrode system was chosen to simulate a typical copper sulfide ore. The sulfide minerals were represented by chalcopyrite and pyrrhotite. The grinding medium was rep¬resented by mild steel. The nature of galvanic interactions involving these minerals and grinding medium in an oxygen atmosphere was investigated in a three-electrode combina¬tion, and an attempt was made to relate the laboratory flotation results of pyrrhotite-chalcopyrite ores. Possible implications to the differential flotation of complex sulfide ores are discussed. Key words: Electrochemistry, Flotation, Sulfide ores Experimental The pyrrhotite (57.74% Fe, 0.09% Cu, 4.84% Ni and 36.54% S) sample was obtained from Falconbridge Ltd.'s Strathcona mine, Ontario, Canada, and the chalcopyrite (26.00% Cu, 28.57% Fe, 0.05% Ni and 31.52% S) sample came from Transvaal, South Africa. Mild steel (AISI 1020, 0.2% C) was chosen to represent grinding media. A conventional three-electrode cell was used in the elec¬trochemical measurements. The working, counter and refer¬ence electrodes were, respectively, sulfide minerals or mild steel, graphite rod and saturated calomel electrode (SCE, 0.245 V vs. standard hydrogen electrode). The exposed areas of the sulfide minerals and grinding medium electrodes were approximately the same (0.17 to 0.19 cm2). The preparation methods of working electrodes, the reagents used, the experi¬mental procedures and the instrumentation were the same as those described previously (Cheng and Iwasaki, 1992). Rest potentials of pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite and mild steel were measured individually in 0.05-M sodium sulfate solu¬tions. Combination potentials and galvanic currents of the sulfide minerals and grinding medium were measured in short-circuited two- and three-electrode systems. All poten¬tials in this study are quoted in volts with respect to the standard hydrogen electrode (SHE). To simulate the constantly abrading conditions in a ball mill, rest potentials, combination potentials and galvanic currents were also measured by rotating a porcelain ball against chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite and mild steel electrodes in
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