In Integrated Approach for Characterization, Selection, and Development of Tailored Frother Formulations for Sulfide Flotation

Additonal authors: . 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

Arinaitwe, Esau

The most extensively used methods and approaches for characterizing and selecting frothers for plant application are based on measurements in clean water in the absence of solids and without consideration of physicochemical factors that are known to influence the properties and behavior of practical flotation froths, and hence metallurgical performance. These factors include aquatic chemistry, collectors, modifiers, particle shape and size, and pH. Understanding interactions between these factors and the role and relevance that they play in characterizing frothers and froth zone properties will greatly aid in the frother selection and evaluation process. Such an understanding will also greatly enhance the ability to create frother solutions that are sufficiently robust to plant variability (such as mineralogical, comminution, operational, physical and chemical). This paper reports results of a “systems approach” study designed to probe ways in which physicochemical factors a) influence frothing and bubble size in 2- and 3-phase systems, and b) confound correlation of fundamental measurements with flotation outcome. The concepts and insights gleaned from fundamental frother studies, together with empirical laboratory flotation tests and a thorough understanding of plant needs and challenges were used to develop and implement customized frother formulation at a Cu-Mo flotation plant. Plant metallurgical data and qualitative assessment of froth zone properties showed that a frother formulation developed using the approach described here provided marked improvements in froth characteristics (mineralization, mobility, stability, persistence). These improvements resulted in better circuit control and significant performance advantages, such as improved coarse particle recovery, without detrimental downstream effects. INTRODUCTION Successful recovery of value minerals of sufficient grade via the flotation process requires selective manipulation of the value minerals to render them hydrophobic using collectors and modifiers. The hydrophobized minerals then attach to air bubbles and the mineral-bubble aggregates are selectively transported through the froth zone into the launder. Frothers play a critical role in froth formation and more importantly in achieving and maintaining desirable froth characteristics (for example, stability, mobility, persistence) that are essential in facilitating the selective transport and recovery of value minerals. Fundamentally, frothers contribute to the transient stability of thin liquid films and so aid in reducing bubble coalescence rates in the pulp and froth zones, thus maintaining the small bubbles required for efficient bubble-particle attachment. Invariably, the action of frothers at the liquid/gas interface in the pulp and froth zones impacts bubble stability, water and solids transport to the froth, which in turn impacts froth mobility, froth carrying capacity, and the concentrate grade. Consequently, selection and evaluation of frothers for flotation plants requires careful consideration of the frother type, though the choice is limited to only two main classes of compounds in terms of fundamental chemistry (short chain alcohols and polyglycols). Even with the selection of what is thought to be the best frother for a given application, practical knowledge of the froth zone and experience in controlling its properties is essential for maximizing metallurgical performance.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019