A process that allows selective flotation separation of low Cu/S ratio minerals (chalcopyrite and pyrite) from high Cu/S ratio minerals (bornite and chalcocite) from a mixed copper mineral concentrate under controlled oxidative-reductive potential conditions has been developed. The process has been extensively tested on samples with varying mineralogy using laboratory batch flotation tests and mini pilot plant trials.
In this process, the mixed final copper mineral concentrate is purged with nitrogen, and then treated with sodium dithionite to achieve a slurry Eh in the -200 to -100 mV standard hydrogen electrode (SHE) range. Flotation was then carried out using nitrogen gas. As a result, a low Cu/S ratio concentrate (<1.3) and a high Cu/S ratio (>1.6) tailing stream were produced. QEMSCAN analysis of the flotation products showed that more than 85 per cent of the chalcopyrite and 95 per cent of the pyrite reported to the froth concentrate. Chalcocite and bornite were almost evenly distributed between the concentrate and tailing streams.
Surface analysis studies, focused on the mechanism of separation, showed that at a negative redox potential xanthate and possibly dixanthogen are the dominant hydrophobic species on the surface of chalcopyrite and pyrite. As a result, the flotation of these minerals remained unaffected. In contrast, a much lower concentration of xanthate species on the surface of chalcocite and bornite particles was observed. Therefore, it is likely that at low Eh the copper xanthate complex desorbs from the chalcocite and bornite surfaces, causing a decrease in surface hydrophobicity and the diminished floatability of chalcocite and bornite.
Ametov, I, Harmer, S, Grano, S and Alford, R, 2014.
Selective flotation of chalcopyrite and pyrite from a mixed copper mineral
concentrate under controlled redox potential conditions, in Proceedings 12th
AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2014 , pp 131–140 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).