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Copper Scalping at Vale’s Matte Separation Plant


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Author S Girard, L Rowland, Y Shields and V Lawson


Since 1948, Vale’s Matte Separation Plant has been successfully using magnetic separation and froth flotation to separate the copper sulfide, nickel sulfide and Ni-Cu metallic alloy contained in Bessemer matte for downstream processing. Though some equipment upgrades have been performed over the years, the flow sheet has generally remained unchanged since the early 1970s. The need to improve metallurgical performance led to the trial of a scalping flotation column to produce a final copper concentrate ahead of the cleaner circuit feed to take advantage of a high degree of copper mineral liberation, reduce cleaner-recleaner circulating loads and decrease the associated loss of selectivity. Plant results indicated that 50 per cent of copper contained in the rougher concentrate could be recovered at final grade target. Results indicate that up to a 1.5 per cent increase in copper recovery to copper concentrate was achieved during the scalper trial due to a reduction in the generation of fine chalcocite which has historically been observed to report to flotation tailings due to surface contamination. Deficiencies are currently being addressed and a long-term trial is scheduled to confirm the benefits of copper scalping.

S, Rowland, L, Shields, Y and Lawson, V, 2012. Copper scalping at Vale’s matte
separation plant, in Proceedings 11th AusIMM Mill Operators’
, pp 299-308 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).