Unstable flotation froths, that burst before they overflow, produce no concentrate. Increasing the froth stability to improve recovery is therefore an obvious control strategy. Froth stability can be measured readily as the fraction of air entering the flotation cell that overflows as froth, rather than bursting on the surface; the ‘air recovery.' Air rate is one of the most significant variables affecting froth stability.
It is interesting that froth stability (air recovery) is maximised at a specific air rate, above or below which it decreases. It is important for metallurgists to realise that this maximum froth stability also produces the maximum mineral recovery, without compromising concentrate grade. Flotation cells must be operated at the air rate that produces the highest air recovery.
The peak air recovery (PAR) to maximum mineral recovery relationship was first demonstrated by Hadler and Cilliers in 2009. Since then, the relationship between PAR and flotation performance has been widely explored; varying air rate, froth depth and particle size. Industrially, reducing the flotation bank air rate to achieve PAR yielded better mineral recoveries than other down-the-bank air rate profiles.
In this paper, we present an overview of these key developments and findings in flotation optimisation based on PAR. Furthermore, using new industrial data, we show that PAR is not just applicable to rougher-scavenger cells, but also to flotation columns. Finally, we consider the future application of such an optimising control concept.
Smith, C, Hadler, K and Cilliers, J, 2018. Flotation control using froth stability: past, present and future, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 441–454 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).