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The challenges of multi-mineral assemblages in the reverse cationic flotation of iron ores

Abstract : Iron ore is the main raw material for the steel production and generally it must be processed to reach the specifications required by the steel industry. The iron ore mining industry is nowfacing increasingly lean-grade deposits with complex mineral assemblages. This study addresses the upgrade of a magnetic concentrate from Peña Colorada mine in Mexico by reverse cationic flotation. Peña Colorada deposit is an iron skarn with an average iron content of 36%. It is composed by several mineral phases that were identified in a detailed mineralogical characterisation programme. Iron-bearing silicates such as chamosite and epidote are the problematic minerals to draw attention to. They present certain properties that are like the iron oxides. The current processing of this ore is made by magnetic separation and yet the silica content of the final concentrate remains between 4 and 5%, too high for the upstream process. Traditional techniques like magnetic separation or gravity separation are not capable to promote further separation. The intrinsic properties of these minerals do not have enough contrast and the liberation is reached only at micrometre sizes. Flotation is proposed in this study as a technique capable of playing with those properties to make this separation possible. The surface chemistry study of the minerals coupled with comparative adsorption isotherms with depressants, has shown that corn starch does not promote selectivity for such a complex iron ore, adsorbing on all minerals. The testing of alternative depressants highlighted humic acid as a viable depressant to sponsor the required level of selectivity in the separation by flotation. Micro-flotation experiments with pure minerals show that chamosite behaves very similar to iron oxides, not presenting good floatabilities with amines, like the other two silicates. Bench flotation tests with a material previously screened at 53 μm leads to a high-quality concentrate with 1.82% of silica and 84% of iron recovery, when humic acid is selected as depressant. Locked cycle tests trying to simulate a continuous process gave an excellent response of a concentrate with 2.78% of silica and 85% of iron recovery, with an altered natural polysaccharide as depressant. Pilot tests also confirmed the feasibility of the method with a concentrate with 2.06% of silica content and 64% of iron recovery, that should be improved by the addition of more scavenger stages. The use of column flotation for this stage is entirely possible, considering that its tests indicated a high iron recovery of 96%. A concentration route combining fine screening at 53 μm and reverse cationic flotation of silicates using alternative depressant as humic acid or altered natural polysaccharides has proven to be effective in achieving the desired quality levels for the iron concentrate at high iron recovery levels. Finally, molecular modelling identified that the strange behaviour of chamosite is mainly because it is less hydrophilic than the other minerals involved in flotation.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 2, 2020 - 9:25:00 AM
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Carlos Henrique Veloso de Melo. The challenges of multi-mineral assemblages in the reverse cationic flotation of iron ores. Earth Sciences. Université de Lorraine, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LORR0190⟩. ⟨tel-02528966⟩



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