mineral processing

mineral processing

or ore dressing

Mechanical treatment of crude ores to separate the valuable minerals. Mineral processing was at first applied only to ores of precious metals but later came to be used to recover other metals and nonmetallic minerals. It is also used during coal preparation to enrich the value of raw coal. The primary operations are comminution and concentration. Comminution is carried out by large jaw crushers and by smaller cylindrical grinding mills. Common methods of concentration are gravity separation and flotation separation. Gravity methods include jigging (ground ore is fed into a pulsating body of water so that the heavier mineral fractions settle out, leaving lighter wastes at the top) or washing the ore down inclined planes, spirals, or shaking tables so that mineral and waste fractions settle in different areas. Seealso beneficiation; mining.

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Mineral processing, otherwise known as mineral dressing, is the practice of beneficiating valuable minerals from their ores. Industrial mineral treatment processes usually combine a number of unit operations in order to liberate and separate minerals by exploiting the differences in physical properties of the different minerals that make up an ore.

Many plants also incorporate hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical processes as part of an extractive metallurgical operation.

Mineral processing involves four general types of operations: comminution or particle size reduction, sizing or separation of particle sizes by screening or classification, concentration by taking advantage of physical and surface chemical properties, and dewatering or solid/liquid separation.

A number of auxiliary materials handling operations are also considered a branch of mineral processing such as storage (as in bin design), conveying, sampling, weighing, slurry transport, and pneumatic transport.

Comminution

Comminution is particle size reduction of materials. Comminution may be carried out on either dry materials or slurries. Crushing and grinding are the two primary comminution processes. Crushing is normally carried out on "run-of-mine" ore, while grinding (normally carried out after crushing) may be conducted on dry or slurried material.

Sizing

Sizing is the general term for separation of particles according to size.

The simplest of sizing processes is screening, or passing the particles to be sized through a screen or number of screens. Screening equipment can include grizzlies, bar screens, and wire mesh screens. Screens can be static (typically the case for very coarse material), or they can incorporate mechanisms to shake or vibrate the screen.

Classification refers to sizing operations that exploits the differences in settling velocities exhibited by particles of different size. Classification equipment may include ore sorters, gas cyclones, hydrocyclones, rake classifiers, rotating trommels, or fluidized classifers. When the feed material contains particles of different densities as well as particles of different size, a degree of concentration takes place during classification because settling velocities are also dependent on particle density.

Froth flotation

Froth flotation is achieved when particles are separated based on their surface potential. Hydrophobic particles are recovered to the froth, whereas hydrophilic particles are discharged with the tailings stream. Some mineral particles are naturally hydrophobic, whereas others require specific reagent additions to change their surface potentials. Oxide ores, such as spodumene and tantalite can be treated using oxalic acid based collectors. Sulfide ores can be recovered using xanthate or dithiophosphate type collectors.

Gravity concentration

Particles can be classified based on their specific gravity. Gravity concentration processes include:

  • Heavy media or dense media separation
  • Shaking tables, such as the wilfely table
  • Spiral separators
  • Centrifugal bowl concentrators
  • Jig concentrators are continuous processing gravity concentration devices.
  • Multi gravity separators

Electrostatic separation

Non-conducting particles maintain an electrostatic charge induced electrically, and so remain pinned to a charged drum. Conducting particles do not maintain the electrostatic charge and so fall off the drum, thus minerals such as ilmenite and rutile can be separated.

Magnetic separation

Minerals such as magnetite and pyrrhotite are naturally magnetic, and so can be separated from non-magnetic particles using strong magnets.

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