A High Rate Mechanical Flotation Cell for Base Metal Applications

Additonal authors: Thanasekaran, H.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Wasmund, E.B.

Mechanical cells are the dominant unit operation in base metal rougher flotation applications worldwide. As economic demand for metals increase, and as the feasible ore grades decrease, the installed capacity of mechanical flotation units worldwide has greatly increased, adding significant capital and operating cost. One opportunity to improve this situation is to use fundamental knowledge to make the industrial flotation process more efficient. A key insight is that the flotation process can be optimized by dividing the processing of the pulp into two distinct fluidic environments; a collection cell where air and pulp mix in a highly energetic compartment, and a low energy gravity separation cell. This is the basis of the “2-stage flotation device” that has been patented by Eriez and marketed under the tradename StackCell™. Two industrial case studies will be presented to highlight the potential metallurgical and commercial advantages of the StackCell. In the first, a train consisting of three pilot scale StackCells (each 0.6 metre diameter) was run in parallel with a train of conventional mechanical cells in a major copper concentrator and benchmarked against a batch Denver test. In the second, the performance of a 3 metre diameter StackCell in a nickel sulfide cleaning application was benchmarked against a batch Denver test. The flotation kinetics observed in the StackCells were 2.4 to 2.9 times faster when compared with the lab Denver test. In the first case study, the kinetics of the StackCell was about six times faster than conventional mechanical cells. It is hypothesized that the efficiency improvement in kinetics is because of reduced “drop-back” during the froth recovery phase, which is reduced because of the reduction in the shear that is present in a conventional mechanical tank cell. This result suggests that a 2-stage flotation system can be used to reduce the working volume of flotation units by five to six times. This would allow operators to significantly reduce the size of their flotation lines for a comparable flotation objective. Some discussion will follow about the scale-up criteria, maintenance and operability issues, comparisons of layout, and possible cost savings. INTRODUCTION The solution that most equipment suppliers have offered to reduce the cost of mechanical flotation equipment over the last 30 years has been to increase the size of the flotation unit cell (Mankosa, 2017). For example, three 100 m3 machines with three smaller motors, mechanisms and control valves could be replaced with a geometrically similar 300 m3 with a larger version of each ancillary component. While there are some efficiencies and cost improvements to be gained by this approach, it does not take advantage of fundamental insights into the flotation process, and it does not represent a step-change in terms of process design or economic benefit for the customer. The advantage of the “bigger is better” approach is that there is past experience of incremental improvements by making cells larger and there is a well-established scale-up method, which allows practitioners to estimate equipment capital costs based on very simple laboratory test- work. A different paradigm, which is gaining interest rapidly is to use a unit operation in which it is easier to optimize the flotation process, which will be described in this paper. This approach is often referred to “2- stage flotation”. Because this approach is new, it is important to benchmark it against existing conventional technology and to demonstrate a robust methodology for sizing equipment and flowsheets. This paper aims to address these issues with two case studies.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019