Most widely used process for extracting many minerals from their ores. The method separates and concentrates ores by altering their surfaces so that they are either repelled or attracted by water. Unwetted particles, which adhere to air that is bubbled through the water, will float in the froth, while wetted particles will sink. The process was developed on a commercial scale early in the 20th century to remove very fine mineral particles that formerly had gone to waste in gravity concentration plants. With its use to concentrate copper, lead, and zinc minerals, which commonly accompany one another in their ores, many complex ore mixtures formerly of little value have become major sources of certain metals.
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