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Changing Trends in Column Flotation Use – Their Impact for Australian Mill Operators


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Author G Harbort, N Deonarain, D Frost and T Lipiec


The use of flotation columns has remained a contentious issue among mill operators. There are those who consider them an essential part of any mineral processing operation, while others consider them a necessary evil, which should only be installed if there is no alternative. Lastly, there are those who believe they should not be installed, no matter how great the perceived benefit.

This paper provides an analysis of over 4000 installed flotation columns, contained in the Amec Foster Wheeler flotation database. Changing trends in column flotation use by type, commodity and geographical region are discussed. The effect of changing commodity prices and the China ‘phenomenon’ are reviewed. Special reference is made to the changing face of column flotation in Australia.

Of note is the fact that after falling to a 20 year low in installed flotation column capacity in 2014, flotation columns during 2015 went through a resurgence in popularity. This resurgence was in direct contradiction to depressed metal prices and was driven by brownfield optimisations to reduce off-site costs, particularly in base metals. A case study is presented comparing the benefits of column flotation at high commodity prices with low commodity prices.


Harbort, G, Deonarain, N, Frost, D, Lipiec, T and David, D, 2016. Changing Trends in Column Flotation Use – Their Impact for Australian Mill Operators, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Mill Operators’ Conference 2016, pp 93–104 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).