Engineering & Mining Journal

DEC 2018

Engineering and Mining Journal - Whether the market is copper, gold, nickel, iron ore, lead/zinc, PGM, diamonds or other commodities, E&MJ takes the lead in projecting trends, following development and reporting on the most efficient operating pr

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Page 53 of 115

FLOTATION 52 E&MJ • DECEMBER 2018 In 1903, E&MJ received a letter from a Londoner requesting "attention" for a flotation method that separated oxide of iron from copper sulphide, "giving a high- grade copper concentrate, salable to cop- per smelters." At the time, flotation, as a discipline, was in its infancy. The solution, being tri- aled at a couple of mines in the United Kingdom, represented a much-needed first and a "great success." It piped oil into a watery ore slurry and agitated the mix. After that, "the oil with its charge of mineral is separated from the water and waste rock by running the whole into a large pointed box, from the bottom of which the rock and water flow, while the oil and mineral float on the top and over- flow for subsequent treatment." Word got around and the Elmore method took off. By late 1916, it was in use by just under a dozen sizeable copper mines around the world, a big chunk of the total in existence back then. It was an example of the speed at which a flotation innovation that meets the pressing needs of the day can go from prototype testing to market acceptance. Today's innovations and improvements follow a similar trajectory. What has changed is how "in recent times, ore is becoming more complex," according to flotation expert Virginia Lawson. "It is not as simple as it used to be." Growing challenges only intensify the race for viable solutions and ensure the demand for those with a successful track record. Reports from some of the more prominent innovators in the space provide examples. Certainty Over Probability With the 30 th anniversary of the first de- ployment of a Jameson Cell imminent, research and development for the fifth generation of the solution is under way, said Lawson, technology manager, Glen- core Technology. "Every 10 years or so, you are look- ing for some changes to address anything that you've learned over the previous 10 years," she said. "So we are just stepping into the Mark V and looking for areas that would improve the performance of the cells for end users." The current and previous generations featured incremental improvements target- ing increased capacity, reduced complexi- ty and extended wear life. "Flotation is a pretty abrasive environment," Lawson said. "You are dealing with fine silicate particles, often very abrasive, so we've been working with different materials of construction to improve the wear life. And now, we rou- tinely see an excess of five years between replacement of key wear parts." With customers dotting the globe and with the solution deployed to a sizeable sample of the full range of conditions and grades found in the sector, feedback from the field will guide any design changes, Lawson said. "We are always looking for ways to improve the cell and make it more operator-friendly," she said. "And right now, we are seeking feedback from operations on improving the designs for future cells." The solution is described as a high-in- tensity froth flotation cell typically used Defeating the Deleterious Whether at the head of a circuit or scavenging tailings, today's flotation innovations address challenges presented by declining grades, rising costs and aging plants By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer Above, a two-unit Elmore Oil Concentrator, circa 1903. (E&MJ, February 1903) The Jameson Cell deployed to MMG's Dugald River zinc mine. (Photo: Glencore Technology)

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