Microindentation testing using the square–pyramid–shaped Vickers indenter is a well-established technique to determine the microhardness of minerals and materials. However there is a paucity of published microhardness data from Fe ore samples. It is acknowledged that an iron ore’s particle mineralogy and texture is critical to its processing properties, and it is therefore considered that the microhardness of different mineralogical/textural types may also relate to these properties. Mineral microhardness potentially provides inputs to the modelling of breakage characteristics during comminution, as well as the relationship between mineral chemistry and microhardness, and mineral microporosity and microhardness. Microhardness can be determined as single crystal microhardness, for more coarsely microcrystalline samples, or as ‘aggregate microhardness’ for cryptocrystalline or finely microcrystalline samples.
Variations in the texture and mineral chemistry of common Fe ore minerals (eg martite and microplaty hematite, ochreous and vitreous goethite etc) are well established and this study provides microhardness data on different textural forms of Fe (oxyhydr)oxides from a variety of different Fe ore deposits. The data indicated that in general, the mineral grain size, microporosity and texture were the main influences on Fe (oxyhydr)oxide microhardness. There were no apparent systematic variations between microhardness and minor element mineral chemistry, with the possible exception of Al content in goethite (for goethites with Al content >0.5 wt per cent), and for goethite total element contents >90 wt per cent (determined by electron probe microanalysis, EPMA). Higher Al concentrations and lower total element concentrations in goethite EPMA analyses correlated with lower goethite microhardness. Microporosity and grain size were more important than texture to hematite microhardness. Different textural forms of dense hematite (eg martite, recrystallised interlocking hematite and specular hematite) with similar grain size exhibited comparable microhardness. Microhardness values for hematite and hydrohematite with little or no evident microporosity were also similar, whereas more porous forms of martite, microplaty hematite or hydrohematite exhibited lower microhardness.
Peterson, M J, Manuel, J R and Hapugoda, S, 2017. Microhardness testing of hematite-goethite Fe ores – implications for their textural characterisation and geometallurgy, in Proceedings Iron Ore 2017, pp 319–330 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).