The treatment of heavy sulphide ores of copper containing zinc and pyrite is often extremely difficult particularly if soluble copper and sulphates are present. This is usually the case in ore deposits near the surface or in tropical countries where the annual rainfall is quite high. The method of ore deposition is also a factor for usually we find such ores with the minerals very closely associated, thus indicating the necessity of very fine grinding to liberate the copper from the zinc and pyrite. This, coupled with the activating effect of copper sulphate on both the zinc and pyrite, presents a difficult selective flotation problem.
In order to meet smelter requirements it is desired to produce at least a 20% copper concentrate with not over 8% zinc. The copper is present principally as chalcopyrite in extremely close association with both the sphalerite and pyrite.
After extensive laboratory test work the above typical flowsheet was developed to meet the requirements for this type of ore. Removal of soluble salts as soon as possible is very important in order not to contaminate fresh mineral surface produced in crushing and grinding. About 2% of the total copper in this ore exists in soluble form so provision is also made for its recovery by precipitation on scrap iron. Two stage grinding with intermediate washing is used to remove soluble salts released between stages.
Primary slimes are washed out ahead of the Jaw Crusher and also in the washing scrubber and trommel. If the ore contains corrosive soluble salts, it is necessary to provide equipment resistant to corrosion. This applies in particular to the trommel screen section and the slime classifier and also the thickeners and diaphragm pumps. Thickeners with wood tanks and mechanisms rubber covered or fabricated out of stainless steel are satisfactory for this service. Type 304 stainless steel is usually satisfactory.
With ore crushed to about in the circuit as illustrated some soluble salts may still carry through in objectionable amounts. Open circuit Rod Milling is therefore incorporated in the grinding section to reduce the ore to about 10 to 14 mesh. No reagents are added at this point as the main objective is to remove soluble salts. The rod mill discharge after passing through a spiral screen to remove tramp oversize is diluted and pumped through a cyclone for further washing. Slimes and water pass on to a thickener in the manner as indicated. Note that the settled solids from the thickener return to the Classifier for density and classification control in the ball mill grinding circuit.
The washed primary slimes are treated by flotation if sufficient recoverable value is present; otherwise, this may go direct to waste. Water overflowing the primary thickener will carry the copper sulphate. This should pass through rectangular concrete tanks filled with scrap iron for copper deposition. The reaction can be speeded up by bubbling compressed air into the scrap iron mass. Periodic clean-up for recovery of the cement copper is adequate.
Grinding the washed rod mill discharge to approximately 90% minus 200 mesh was necessary to get fairly good liberation of the copper and zinc from the bulk of the pyrite. Lime was added to the ball mill to give a pH of about 10 for depression of the pyrite. Zinc inhibiting reagents appeared detrimental to good copper recovery in the primary circuit probably due to close mineral association.
The classifier overflow at 90% minus 200 mesh and approximately 20% solids with a pH of about 10 is conditioned with Dow Reagent Z-200. This reagent has both promoting and frothing characteristics favorable to flotation of the copper and zinc with a minimum of pyrite. Sodium isopropyl xanthate Z-11 and a light frother such as methyl isobutyl carbinol or Dowfroth 250 may be used as alternate reagents.
Bulk flotation under differential conditions to reject the pyrite into the tailings results in about one-third (1/3) of the total weight ending up in the bulk concentrate containing slightly over 90% of the total copper. Approximately 2% of the total copper was previously removed in soluble form in the primary washing stages ahead of the grinding circuit.
The bulk copper-zinc concentrate after thickening is reground to all minus 325 mesh. Even at this grind microscopic examination shows inclusions of chalcopyrite in sphalerite grains. Zinc sulphate and cyanide are added to the regrind mill to effectively depress the sphalerite. Xanthate Z-11 or reagent Z-200 is added to the conditioner to promote the chalcopyrite and float it in the Sub-A circuit as shown. Note that a scavenger or middling product is taken at the end of the circuit and returned to the regrind section for further grinding. Final copper concentrate assayed approximately 28% copper with slightly under 8% zinc. Copper recovery was between 70-75% on this difficult ore. By lowering the copper grade and increasing recovery the zinc content would become excessive. The smelter did not permit copper with over 10% Zn.
Sub-A Flotation Cells of the cell to cell type are recommended for all the flotation steps in this treatment circuit. A high degree of selectivity is very essential in the roughing, scavenging, cleaning, and recleaning steps throughout since the bulk of the ore is pyrite, and it must be rejected into the final mill tailing. The final tailing from the regrind section will be high in zinc. When market conditions are favorable it can be converted into a shipping grade zinc concentrate.
On ores of this type it is very essential to carry out a comprehensive test program on representative samples taken from various zones of the mining operation. Samples should be shipped in sealed containers to retain the original moisture content and soluble salts and tested without delay. This minimizes the effects of surface oxidation and more nearly approaches the conditions under which the ore will be milled.
Although basic porphyry copper flotation and metallurgy has remained virtually the same for many years, the processing equipment as well as design of the mills has continually been improved to increase production while reducing operating and maintenance costs. Also, considerable attention is paid to automatic sensing devices and automatic controls in order to assure maximum metallurgy and production at all times. For simplicity in this study most of these controls are not shown.Many of the porphyry copper deposits contain molybdenite and some also contain lead and zinc minerals.
Even though these minerals occur in relatively small amounts they can often be economically recovered as by-products for the expense of mining, crushing, and grinding is absorbed in recovery of the copper.
Because the copper in this type of ore usually assays only plus or minus 1% copper, the porphyry copper operations must be relatively large in order to be commercial. The flowsheet in this study illustrates a typical 3,000 ton per day operation. In general most operations of this type have two or more parallel grinding and flotation circuits. For additional capacity, additional parallel circuits are installed.
The crushing section consists of two or three crushing stages with the second or third stages in either closed or open circuit with vibrating screens. Generally, size of the primary crusher is not determined by capacity but by the basic size of the mine run rock. The mine-run ore is normally relatively large as most of the porphyry mines are open pit.The crushing section illustrated is designed to handle the full tonnage in approximately 8 to 16 hours thus having reserve capacity in case of expansion.
Many mills store not only the coarse ore but also the fine ore in open stockpiles using ore as the side walls and drawing the live ore from the center. During prolonged periods of crusher maintenance the ore walls can be bulldozed over the ore feeders to provide an uninterrupted supply of ore for milling.
As it is shown in this study the or 1 crushed ore is fed to a rod mill operating in open circuit and discharging a product approximately minus 14-mesh. The discharge from this primary rod mill is equally distributed to two ball mills which are in closed circuit with SRL Rubber Lined Pumps and two or more cyclone classifiers. The rod mill and two ball mills are approximately the same size for simplified maintenance.
Porphyry copper ores, usually medium to medium hard, require grinding to about 65-mesh to economically liberate the copper minerals from the gangue. Although a clean rougher tailing can often be achieved at 65-mesh the copper mineral is not liberated sufficiently to make a high grade copper concentrate, thus some form of regrinding is necessary on the rougher flotation copper concentrate. It is not unusual to grind the rougher flotation concentrate to minus 200-mesh for more complete liberation of mineral from the gangue.
The cyclone overflow from each ball mill goes to a Pulp Distributor which distributes the pulp to two or more parallel banks of Flotation Cells. These distributors are designed so that one or more flotation banks can be shut down for maintenance or inspection and still maintain equal distribution of feed to the remaining banks.
In some cases it is beneficial to have conditioning before flotation, but this varies from one operation to another and it is not shown in this flowsheet. Ten or more Free-Flow Flotation Cells are used per bank and these cells are divided into groups of four or six cells with an intermediate step-down weir between groups. Free-Flow Flotation Cells are specified, as metallurgy is extremely good while both maintenance and operating expenses are traditionally low. One or more Free-Flow Mechanisms can be stopped for inspection or even replaced for maintenance without shutting down the bank of cells.
The concentrates from rougher flotation cells are sent directly to regrind. Often the grind is 200-mesh. After regrind is flotation cleaning. In some cases the concentrate from the first three or four rougher flotation cells can be sent directly to cleaning without regrinding.
After the rougher flotation concentrate is reground it is cleaned twice in additional Free-Flow Flotation Machines with the recleaned concentrate going to final concentrate filtration or, as the metallurgy dictates, to a copper-moly separation circuit.
The thickening and filtering is similar to other milling operations, however, as the porphyry copper installations are often in arid areas, the mill tailing is usually sent to a large thickener for water reclamation and solids go to the tailings dam.
Automatic controls are usually provided throughout modern plants to measure and control pulp flow, pH and density at various points in the circuit. Feed and density controls are relatively common and the newer installations are using automatic pulp level controls on flotation machines and pump sumps. Automation is also being applied to the crushing systems.
The use of continuous on stream X-ray analysis for almost instantaneous metallurgical results is not shown in thus study but warrants careful study for both new and existing mills. Automatic sampling of all principal pulp flows are essential for reliable control.
The flowsheet in this study illustrates the modern approach to porphyry copper treatment throughout the industry. Each plant will through necessity have somewhat different arrangements or methods for accomplishing the same thing and reliable ore test data are used in most every case to plan the flowsheet and design the mill.
In most plants engaged in the flotation of ores containing copper-bearing sulphide minerals with or without pyrite, pine oil is employed as a frother with one of the xanthates or aerofloat reagents or a combination of two or more of them as the promoter. Lime is nearly always used for maintaining the alkalinity of the circuit and depressing any pyrite present. The reagent consumption is normally within the following limits
While good results are often obtained with ethyl xanthate alone as a promoter, the addition of a small quantity of one of the higher xanthates is frequently found to improve the recovery of those minerals that are not readily floated by the lower xanthate, especially those that are tarnished or oxidized, but since the action of a higher xanthate is, as a rule, more powerful than that of the ethyl compound, it is usually best to add no more of the former reagent than is necessary to bring up the less readily floatable minerals, controlling flotation with the less powerful and more selective lower xanthate. Better results are obtained with some ores by replacing the higher xanthate with one of the dithiophosphates, flotation being controlled, as before, with ethyl xanthate. Sometimes a dithiophosphate can be effectively used without the xanthate, although the dual promotion method is more common. A rule of thumb system for the selection of these reagents cannot be laid down as the character of the minerals differs so widely in different ores ; the best combination can only be found by experiment.When aerofloat is employed alone as the promoter, the reagent mixture is somewhat different from that given above. A reliable average consumption is difficult to determine as the plants working on these lines are few in number, but the following is what would normally be expected.If this combination of reagents gives results equal to those obtainable with a xanthate mixture, its employment has these advantages over the latter method: The control of flotation is not so delicate as with xanthates, it has less tendency to bring up pyrite, and, if selectivity is not required, the circuit may be neutral or only slightly alkaline.
When the ore is free from pyrite, the function of the lime, whatever the reagent mixture, is to precipitate dissolved salts and to maintain the alkalinity of the pulp at the value which has been found to givethe best results ; soda ash is seldom employed for this purpose. When pyrite is present, lime performs the additional function of a depressor, the amount used being balanced against that of the promoterthat is, no more lime should be added than is required to prevent the bulk of the pyrite from floating, as any excess tends to depress the copper minerals, and no more of the promoter should be employed than is needed to give a profitable recovery of the valuable minerals in a concentrate of the desired grade, since any excess tends to bring up pyrite. In many cases a more effective method of depressing pyrite is to add a small quantity of sodium cyanidee.g., 0.05-0.10 lb. per tonin conjunction with lime, less of the latter reagent then being necessary than if it were used alone.
It is not often that a conditioning tank has to be installed ahead of the flotation section in the treatment of sulphide copper ores, as the grinding circuit usually provides suitable points for the introduction of the reagents. The normal practice is to put lime into the primary ball mills and to add xanthates at the last possible moment before flotation, while aerofloat and di-thio-phosphates are preferably introduced at some point in the grinding circuit, since they generally need an appreciable time of contact as compared with xanthates. There is no special place for the addition of pine oil, but care should be taken if it is put into the primary ball mills, as a slight excess may cause an undue amount of froth to form in the classifiers.
In a plant where the primary slime is by-passed round the grinding circuit, it is necessary to ensure that this portion of the pulp receives its correct proportion of and contact time with the reagents.
As regards flotation installations, the present tendency is to employ machines of the air-lift or Callow-Maclntosh rather than of the subaeration type. While two stages of cleaning (circuits 10 and 11) are sometimes essential to the production of a clean final concentrate, circuits 8 and 9 comprising a single stage of cleaning are probably the most widely used. Occasionally the primary machines can be run as rougher-cleaner cells (circuit No. 5), particularly when they are of the air-lift or subaeration type. This method, however, is not often employed, although its use is more common in the flotation of copper sulphide minerals than of any other class of ore ; a stage of cleaning is preferable as providing greater lattitude of control.
Two variations of normal procedure are worth notice. In one or two plants employing two-stage grinding, improved results have been obtained by separating the slime from the primary ball mill circuit and sending it direct to a special flotation section. This method is useful when the feed to the flotation plant contains an appreciable quantity of fines, which, due generally to oxidation through exposure, require different treatment from the unweathered part of the ore. Such fines are usuallyfriable and can be separated as slime from the primary grinding circuit without the inclusion of an undue proportion of unoxidized material, the bulk of which thus passes to the secondary grinding circuit and thence to its own division of the flotation plant.
The second variation consists of grinding the rougher concentrate before cleaning. The method is applicable to an ore in which the copper- bearing minerals are so intimately associated with pyrite that very fine grinding is necessary to liberate them completely. It is often possible, after grinding such an ore to a comparatively coarse mesh, to make a profitable recovery of the copper in a low-grade concentrate which does not represent too large a proportion, say 30% or less, of the total weightof the feed. The concentrate can then be reground and refloated with the production of a high-grade copper concentrate together with a low- grade pyritic tailing suitable for return to the roughing circuit. This method is likely to be less costly than one involving the fine grinding of the whole ore. No standard system can be given for handling the various products as their disposal depends so much on the occurrence of the minerals and the efficiency of the regrinding operations, but a typical flow sheet is illustrated in circuit No. 12 (Fig. 60). It is diagrammatic to the extent that the thickener and regrinding unit may receive its feed from several roughing machines and deliver its discharge to a number of cleaning cells. It is usual to dewater the rougher concentrate and return the water to the primary circuit for two reasons : First, to supply the regrinding mill with a thick enough pulp for efficient operation, and, secondly, as far as possible to prevent the reagents used in the roughing circuit from entering the cleaning section.
In normal practice a recovery of over 90% of the copper which is present as a sulphide is generally possible, whatever the flotation process or circuit employed. As regards the average grade of concentrate, no more can be said than that it depends on the class of the copper-bearing minerals present and their mode of occurrence and on the character of the gangue. It usually contains over 20% of copper, but a difficult chalcopyritic ore may yield a concentrate with less than that percentage, while it is theoretically possible to obtain one running over 75% should the mineral consist entirely of pure chalcocite.
The flotation of native copper ores is nearly always preceded by gravity concentration in jigs and tables not only because the combined process is more economical as regards costs, but also because the copper often occurs as large grains which flatten out during grinding and cannot be broken to a size small enough for flotation. The flow sheet depends on the mode of occurrence of the mineral. The tailings from some of the gravity concentration machines may be low enough in value to be discarded, but those products which still contain too much copper to be sent to waste are thickened and reground, should either operation be necessary, and then floated with pine oil and a xanthate or aerofloat reagent in a neutral or slightly alkaline circuit. The reagent consumption is approximately the same as that given for the treatment of copper- bearing sulphides. While a pine oil, lime, and ethyl xanthate mixture has proved satisfactory, better results have sometimes been obtained by the substitution of aerofloat and sodium di-ethyl-di-thio-phosphate, soda ash being used instead of lime on account of its gangue deflocculating properties. On the average 0-12 lb. per ton of aerofloat and 0.03 lb. of the di-thio-phosphate are substituted for 0.1 lb. of xanthate.
Since a high-grade concentrate is desired in order to keep smelting costs as low as possible, the circuit usually comprises two stages of cleaning. In most plants flotation is carried out in mechanically agitated machines.
The problem of the flotation of oxidized copper ores has not yet been solved. One or two special processes are in operation for the flotation of malachite and azurite, but none of them has more than a limited application; nor has any method been worked out on a large scale for the bulk flotation of mixed oxidized and sulphide copper minerals when the former are present in the ore in appreciable quantity.
Copper, due to the present world demand and price, is of foremost interest to the mining industry. Many new properties are either in the process of being brought into production or are being given consideration. Copper minerals usually occur in low grade deposits and require concentration prior to smelting. The method and degree of concentration depends on smelter location and schedules, together with the nature of the ore deposit. Sulphide copper ores generally occur with pyrite, pyrrhotite, arsenopyrite and molybdenite, and with gold and silver. A complete copper-iron separation may not always be essential for the maximum economic recovery and often is tied to the distribution of the gold and silver values.
The above flowsheet is designed for the treatment by flotation of copper as chalcopyrite with gold and silver values. The ore, ranging from 60-65% silica, with pyrite, arsenopyrite, and calcite with 3 to 4% copper. This flowsheet, though simple, is adequate for tonnages of 100 to 500 tons or more per day, depending on the size of equipment selected. It can be readily expanded by duplicating units for increased tonnages. By minor circuit changes, it provides the flexibility to treat a range of ore conditions which are often encountered in any mining operation. Generally in these small plants the recovery of molybdenum is disregarded unless it is present in considerable amounts. Larger plants generally will incorporate a circuit for molybdenum recovery from the copper concentrate by flotation. Sub- A Flotation is standard for this service.
Crushing Section. The crushing section with two-stage reduction is suitable for smaller tonnages, depending on the ore characteristics. Three-stage reduction in either an open or closed circuit, with screens for the removal of fines can be employed where conditions warrant. The fines are removed by a grizzly or screen ahead of each reduction stage for higher efficiency and for reduced wear on crushing surfaces.
Feed control is essential to efficient grinding and helps reduce surges and fluctuations throughout the entire plant. The Ball Mill in closed circuit with a Spiral Classifier discharges the pulp at about 60% minus 200 mesh. The Ball Mill is equipped with a Spiral Screen on the discharge for removal of any tramp oversize, worn grinding balls, and wood chips from the circuit.
The pulp from the Conditioner is treated in a 10-cell Sub-A Flotation Machine and a 4-cell Sub-A Flotation machine. Sometimes conditioners are not provided; however, their use insures that reagents are thoroughly mixed into the pulp ahead of flotation. This gives a more uniform feed and effective use of reagents plus improved flotation conditions. The 10-cell Sub-A Flotation Machine is of the free-flow type. Weirs for the control of pulp level through the machine are provided at the fourth, eighth and tenth cells. This free-flow type provides ample volume for normal fluctuations in the feed rate without cell level adjustment. Sand relief ports help extend the long life of the molded rubber wearing parts.
The first eight cells produce a rougher concentrate while the last two cells act as scavengers. The concentrate or middling product from these two cells is returned by gravity back to the fifth cell. The rougher concentrate from the first eight cells is cleaned in two stages in the four-cell standard Sub-A Flotation Machine, of the cell-to-cell type. No pumps are needed for the return of these flotation products for cleaning. This feature in Sub-A Flotation Machines gives added flexibility by enabling the operator to change cleaning circuits readily, should conditions require. The tailings from the cleaner flotation section are pumped back to the ball mill for regrind. To control dilution a cone classifier is placed in this circuit with the coarse solids going to regrind and the overflow used as dilution in the mill and classifier. It is possible to eliminate this classification in some cases but control is less positive. A separate regrind section could be provided if the quantity of middling products were enough to make this section feasible.
The final cleaned flotation concentrate flows or is pumped to a Spiral Rake Thickener. A Adjustable Stroke Diaphragm Pump, mounted on the thickener superstructure, meters the thickened concentrate to the Disc Filter. The Thickeners are often used to store concentrates for filtration at fixed intervals. These units have heavy duty construction throughout, overload indicators and positive rake lifting features. The Diaphragm Pump is used for concentrate recirculation purposes during such periods.
Lime is added to the Ball Mill by a Cone Type Dry Reagent Feeder. Other reagents, such as cyanide, xanthate, and a frother are fed and controlled by No. 12A Wet Reagent Feeders to the classifier and to the conditioner ahead of flotation.
This flowsheet stresses simplicity without sacrifice of efficiency. The factors of flexibility are essential to meet changing ore and market conditions. The unit arrangement which can be expanded by sections for increased capacity is an important feature. The equipment indicated has been proven for long life and low maintenance, and to give superior results. The Sub-A Flotation Machines are designed for high capacity and with features of flexibility to handle fluctuating conditions with a minimum of operating attention. Low final tailings and high grade concentrate are assured through the selective action of the Sub-A in the roughing, cleaning, and recleaning circuits.
Large scale mining operations, of which the porphyry coppers are typical, must resort to concentration. This is necessary as the ores are generally low grade and require flotation to produce a concentrate acceptable to the smelters.
These large scale milling operations handling low grade ore must provide very careful planning in the design of their plant flowsheet and selection of equipment. Milling circuits must be as simple as possible and for large tonnages, as few as possible. It is for this reason grinding mills and flotation circuits arenow designed to handle these large tonnages at low cost.
Sub-A Flotation Machines are a basic part of large tonnage operations and their use assures maximum economic recovery. Particular emphasis has been placed on the design and operation of these machines for roughing, scavenging and cleaning. Mechanisms have been greatly simplified and molded rubber wearing parts are standard for maximum abrasion resistance.
Three stage crushing is illustrated in the flowsheet; however, it is possible and practical to eliminate the third stage by incorporating a rod mill in the grinding section. This is a very practical arrangement and often a necessity when handling wet, sticky ore. There is evidence that this combination of crushing and grinding results in lower costs for reducing large tonnages of ore to flotation size.
The flowsheet illustrates a typical grinding circuit with a rod mill in open circuit. Its discharge, usually all 14 mesh, goes to a classifier for removal of finished material. The classifier sands are ground in a ball mill in closed circuit with the same classifier. High speed rod milling with speeds up to 80% of critical has shown definite improvement in efficiency and grinding capacity. Proper selection of mill density and grinding charges are also factors of importance. Usually the rod mill is operated at lower density so it acts partially as its own classifier for retaining oversize for further size reduction.
Some conditioning of the pulp ahead of flotation is usually very beneficial and will result in more uniform and rapid flotation of a selective high grade concentrate. For this service the (patented) Super Agitator and Conditioner is standard. Reagents added at this point are thoroughly mixed and reacted with the pulp. Any tendency of the pulp to froth prematurely is readily overcome by the patented standpipe arrangement which also assures positive pulp circulation.
For large tonnage circuits normally encountered in many of the copper operations the open or free flow type Sub-A Super Rougher Flotation Machine is recommended. Intermediate cell weirs are eliminated and circulation of pulp through the impeller is fixed to provide the desired agitation and aeration for rougher flotation conditions. Machines are usually arranged with up to six cells being open or free-flow without intermediate weirs. Two or more machines are always provided in series. This allows adequate volume for absorbing surges and fluctuation in feed without cell adjustment. Mineral and middlings in the teeter or quiescent zone of the cell are gradually forced upward to the froth removal zone. Only the coarser material in the agitation zone passes through the impeller for further conditioning and bubble attachment.
In the flowsheet each circuit consists of 16 or 18 cells in 4 or 6 cell units. These Sub-A Super Rougher Flotation Free-Flow Machines are in series. All of the mechanisms are of the single impeller type and are completely supported from the superstructure to facilitate maintenance. All heavy hoods and castings are eliminated and the impeller-diffuser clearance is pre-set and accurately maintained throughout the long life of the heavy duty moulded rubber wearing parts. The last two cells are the super scavenger type giving veryintense agitation and aeration to float the last trace of recoverable mineral or middling for re-treatment.
Rougher flotation concentrates are cleaned in a standard Sub-A Flotation Machine with cell to cell pulp level control. This arrangement for upgrading concentrates is universal in its acceptance by the ore dressing industry. Two or more stages of cleaning in the same machine are accomplished without auxiliary pumps and ideal flotation conditions for producing high-grade concentrates are easily maintained.
Cleaner flotation tailings are returned to the head of the rougher flotation circuit for retreatment. In many milling circuits, particularly if coarse grinding is used, the cleaner tailings will contain middlings or mineral with attached particles of gangue. In these cases it is necessary to thicken or classify and regrind this fraction. Centrifugal classifiers are being very successfully applied for the classification step although they do take considerable power and require more maintenance than a thickener with its underflow going to a regrind circuit.
The flowsheet incorporates thickening for both the concentrates and tailings for water reclamation and tailings disposal purposes. A Adjustable Stroke Diaphragm Pump on the concentrate thickener assures absolute control of the volumes delivered to the Disc Filter. When the filter is down temporarily for bag changes the concentrates may be recirculated to the thickener by this same pulp.
Flexibility and simplicity are the two most important points to design into any large tonnage flotation operation. The arrangement shown is flexible and will permit addition of extra milling sections up to the limit of the designed capacity of the crushing plant. Sub-A Flotation Machines are designed specifically for high tonnage installations and have been proven for all types of applications. Rugged construction will give years of service at lowest possible cost. This flowsheet is readily adaptable for the treatment of other ores. Note particularly the location and use of Automatic Sampler.
Copper, one of our most important minerals, is found in many parts of the world. One of the major sources of Copper is the so-called porphyry ores such as the large deposits in the west and southwestern United States, Mexico, South America and Europe.
Porphyry ores, with copper occurring in the form of Chalcocite and Chalcopyrite are normally low in grade and the copper minerals must be concentrated before smelting. In this flowsheet using Sub-A Cells the emphasis is on maximum economic recoveryhigh concentrating efficiency together with a premium smelter feed with a low alumina and magnesia content in the flotation concentrate.
To obtain lowest tailings from this ore usually requires scavenging of rougher flotation tails. This is performed ideally by the Sub-A Super Rougher Flotation Machine which was specially developed for this duty. This machine has a double impeller and gives tremendous aeration. The flowsheet in this study is designed to get the maximum recovery from a large tonnage of porphyry copper ore.
The crushing section consists of three-stage ore reduction with either a grizzly or vibrating screen between each crushing stage. Removing fines before putting the ore through a crusher increases the efficiency of the crusher as it is then only working on material that must be reduced, and is not hampered by fines already reduced in size. Electromagnets and magnetic pulleys are used to remove tramp iron from the ore, the former to remove the iron near the surface and the magnetic pulley to remove the tramp iron close to the conveyor belt.
Porphyry copper ores usually are medium to medium hard and require grinding to about 65 mesh to economically liberate the copper minerals from the siliceous gangue. Sometimes a regrinding circuit is advantageous on the rougher concentrate and on the scavenger concentrate. This will liberate the mineral from the middling products and increase the recovery by putting those mineral particles into the concentrate. Rougher flotation may be accomplished at a relatively coarse grind and the subsequent regrind performed on a comparatively small tonnage.
Lime is usually added to the ball mill feed by a Dry Reagent Feeder. The frother and promoter are added in the classifier prior to flotation to realize the full effect of the reagent. Reagents can also be stage- added to the cells in the flotation circuit.
Standard Sub-A Flotation Machines are used for both the rougher and cleaner circuits, where their cell-to-cell principle gives both high recovery and a good grade of concentrate. The rougher concentration is accomplished in 6 or 8-cell flotation machines, with the concentrate from each goingto a separate bank for cleaning and re-cleaning. No. 30 Sub-A Flotation Machines are ideal for large tonnage operations, as each bank will handle from 1000 tons upward per day. Tails from the rougher circuit go to a scavenger circuit. Roughing, scavenging, cleaning and recleaning can be carried out in one bank of Sub-As. This is possible because of the distinctive gravity return of a product from any cell to any other cell of a bank without using pumps. In large installations, however, these steps are usually carried out in separate banks of cells. The scavenger flotation circuit consists of a 4-cell, Sub-A Super Rougher Flotation Machine with its super aeration. The concentrate from scavenger cells is returned to the head of the rougher cells and tails are sent to tailing pond. The new Sub-A Super Rougher Machine is designed especially to produce the lowest possible tailings in the mill circuit by scavenging off the last bit of recoverable and often difficult to float mineral. The Automatic Sampler is used on the flotation feed, concentrates and tailings to establish close mill control.
The flowsheet incorporates a thickener on the copper concentrates to thicken for optimum filtering. This also serves as a temporary storage space to accommodate operating requirements. The Adjustable-Stroke Diaphragm Pump on the thickener gives absolute control of volumes pumped to the filter. When the filter is shut down concentrates may be recirculated to the thickener by this same pump.
It is essential to have flexibility in any mill circuit, but particularly in large-tonnage operations such as this. Changing ore, changing market conditions and many other factors make this flexibility absolutely necessary. A slight change, easily made, in a flexible flowsheet may increase tonnage, improve recovery and lower grinding and reagent costs.
More ores are treated using froth flotation cells than by any other single machines or process. Non-metallics as well as metallics now being commercially recovered include gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron, manganese, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, graphite, phosphate, fluorspar, barite, feldspar and coal. Recent flotation research indicates that any two substances physically different, but associated, can be separated by flotation under proper conditions and with the correct machine and reagents. The DRflotation machine competes with Wemco and Outotec (post-outokumpu) flotation cells but are all similar is design. How do flotation cells and machinework for themineral processing industry will be better understood after you read on.
While many types of agitators and aerators will make a flotation froth and cause some separation, it is necessary to have flotation cells with the correct fundamental principles to attain high recoveries and produce a high grade concentrate. The Sub-A (Fahrenwald) Flotation Machines have continuously demonstrated their superiority through successful performance. The reliability and adaptations to all types of flotation problems account for the thousands of Sub-A Cells in plants treating many different materials in all parts of the world.
The design of Denver Sub-A flotation cells incorporates all of the basic principles and requirements of the art, in addition to those of the ideal flotation cell. Its design and construction are proved by universal acceptance and its supremacy is acknowledged by world-wide recognition and use.
1) Mixing and Aeration Zone:The pulp flows into the cell by gravity through the feed pipe, dropping directly on top of the rotating impeller below the stationary hood. As the pulp cascades over the impeller blades it is thrown outward and upward by the centrifugal force of the impeller. The space between the rotating blades of the impeller and the stationary hood permits part of the pulp to cascade over the impeller blades. This creates a positive suction through the ejector principle, drawing large and controlled quantities of air down the standpipe into the heart of the cell. This action thoroughly mixes the pulp and air, producing a live pulp thoroughly aerated with very small air bubbles. These exceedingly small, intimately diffused air bubbles support the largest number of mineral particles.
This thorough mixing of air, pulp and reagents accounts for the high metallurgical efficiency of the Sub-A (Fahrenwald) Flotation Machine, and its correct design, with precision manufacture, brings low horsepower and high capacity. Blowers are not needed, for sufficient air is introduced and controlled by the rotating impeller of the Denver Sub-A. In locating impeller below the stationary hood at the bottom of the cell, agitating and mixing is confined to this zone.
2) Separation Zone:In the central or separation zone the action is quite and cross currents are eliminated, thus preventing the dropping or knocking of the mineral load from the supporting air bubble, which is very important. In this zone, the mineral-laden air bubbles separate from the worthless gangue, and the middling product finds its way back into the agitation zone through the recirculation holes in the top of the stationary hood.
3) Concentrate Zone:In the concentrate or top zone, the material being enriched is partially separated by a baffle from the spitz or concentrate discharge side of the machine. The cell action at this point is very quiet and the mineral-laden concentrate moves forward and is quickly removed by the paddle shaft (note direct path of mineral). The final result is an unusually high grade concentrate, distinctive of the Sub-A Cell.
A flotation machine must not only float out the mineral value in a mixture of ground ore and water, but also must keep the pulp in circulation continuously from the feed end to the discharge end for the removal of the froth, and must give the maximum treatment positively to each particle.
It is an established fact that the mechanical method of circulating material is the most positive and economical, particularly where the impeller is below the pulp. A flotation machine must not only be able to circulate coarse material (encountered in every mill circuit), but also must recirculate and retreat the difficult middling products.
In the Denver Sub-A due to the distinctive gravity flow method of circulation, the rotating impeller thoroughly agitates and aerates the pulp and at the same time circulates this pulp upward in a straight line, removing the mineral froth and sending the remaining portion to the next cell in series. No short circuiting through the machine can thus occur, and this is most important, for the more treatments a particle gets, the greater the chances of its recovery. The gravity flow principle of circulation of Denver Sub-A Flotation Cell is clearly shown in the illustration below.
There are three distinctive advantages of theSub-A Fahrenwald Flotation Machines are found in no other machines. All of these advantages are needed to obtain successful flotation results, and these are:
Coarse Material Handled:Positive circulation from cell to cell is assured by the distinctive gravity flow principle of the Denver Sub-A. No short circuiting can occur. Even though the ore is ground fine to free the minerals, coarse materials occasionally gets into the circuit, and if the flotation machine does not have a positive gravity flow, choke-ups will occur.
In instances where successful metallurgy demands the handling of a dense pulp containing an unusually large amount of coarse material, a sand relief opening aids in the operation by removing from the lower part of the cell the coarser functions, directing these into the feed pipe and through the impeller of the flowing cell. The finer fraction pass over the weir overflow and thus receive a greater treatment time. In this manner short-circuiting is eliminated as the material which is bled through the sand relief opening again receives the positive action of the impeller and is subjected to the intense aeration and optimum flotation condition of each successive cell, floating out both fine and coarse mineral.
No Choke-Ups or Lost Time:A Sub-A flotation cell will not choke-up, even when material as coarse as is circulated, due to the feed and pulp always being on top of the impeller. After the shutdown it is not necessary to drain the machine. The stationary hood and the air standpipe during a shutdown protects the impeller from sanding-up and this keeps the feed and air pipes always open. Denver Sub-A flotation operators value its 24-hour per day service and its freedom from shutdowns.
This gravity flow principle of circulation has made possible the widespread phenomenal success of a flotation cell between the ball mill and classifier. The recovery of the mineral as coarse and as soon as possible in a high grade concentrate is now highly proclaimed and considered essential by all flotation operators.
Middlings Returned Without Pumps:Middling products can be returned by gravity from any cell to any other cell. This flexibility is possible without the aid of pumps or elevators. The pulp flows through a return feed pipe into any cell and falls directly on top of the impeller, assuring positive treatment and aeration of the middling product without impairing the action of the cell. The initial feed can also enter into the front or back of any cell through the return feed pipe.
Results : It is a positive fact that the application of these three exclusive Denver Sub-A advantages has increased profits from milling plants for many years by increasing recoveries, reducing reagent costs, making a higher grade concentrate, lowering tailings, increasing filter capacities, lowering moisture of filtered concentrate and giving the smelter a better product to handle.
Changes in mineralized ore bodies and in types of minerals quickly demonstrate the need of these distinctive and flexible Denver Sub-A advantages. They enable the treatment of either a fine or a coarse feed. The flowsheet can be changed so that any cell can be used as a rougher, cleaner, or recleaner cell, making a simplified flowsheet with the best extraction of mineral values.
The world-wide use of the Denver Sub-A (Fahrenwald) Flotation Machine and the constant repeat orders are the best testimonial of Denver Sub-A acceptance. There are now over 20,000 Denver Sub-A Cells in operation throughout the world.
There is no unit so rugged, nor so well built to meet the demands of the process, as the Denver Sub-A (Fahrenwald) Flotation Machine. The ruggedness of each cell is necessary to give long life and to meet the requirements of the process. Numerous competitive tests all over the world have conclusively proved the real worth of these cells to many mining operators who demand maximum result at the lower cost.
The location of the feed pipe and the stationary hood over the rotating impeller account for the simplicity of the Denver Sub-A cell construction. These parts eliminates swirling around the shaft and top of the impeller, reduce power load, and improve metallurgical results.
TheSub-A Operates in three zones: in bottom zone, impeller thoroughly mixes and aerates the pulp, the central zone separates the mineral laden particles from the worthless gangue, and in top zone the mineral laden concentrate high in grade, is quickly removed by the paddle of a Denver Sub-A Cell.
A Positive Cell Circulation is always present in theSub-A (Fahrenwald) Flotation Machine, the gravity flour method of circulating pulp is distinctive. There is no short circulating through the machine. Every Cell must give maximum treatment, as pulp falls on top of impeller and is aerated in each cell repeatedly. Note gravity flow from cell to cell.
Choke-Ups Are Eliminated in theSub-A Cell, even when material as coarse as is handled, due to the gravity flow principle of circulation. After shutdown it is not necessary to drain the machine, as the stationary hood protects impeller from sanding up. See illustration at left showing cell when shut down.
No Bowlers, noair under pressure is required as sufficient air is drawn down the standpipe. The expense and complication of blowers, air pipes and valves are thus eliminated. The standpipe is a vertical air to the heart of the Cell, the impeller. Blower air can be added if desired.
The Sub-A Flexibility allows it tobe used as a rougher, cleaner or recleaner. Rougher or middling product can be returned to the front or back of any cell by gravity without the use of pumps or elevators. Cells can be easily added when required. This flexibility is most important in operating flotation MILLS.
Pulp Level Is Controlled in each Sub-A Flotation Cell as it has an individual machine with its own pulp level control. Correct flotation requires this positive pulp level control to give best results in these Cells weir blocks are used, but handwheel controls can be furnished at a slight increase in cost. Note the weir control in each cell.
High Grade Concentrate caused by thequick removal of the mineral forth in the form of a concentrate increases the recovery. By having an adjustment paddle for each Sub-A Cell, quick removal of concentrate is assured, Note unit bearing housing for the impeller Shaft and Speed reducer drive which operates the paddle for each cell
Has Fewer Wearing Parts because Sub-A Cells are built for long, hard service, and parts subject to wear are easily replaced at low cost. Molded rubber wearing plates and impellers are light in weight give extra long life, and lower horsepower. These parts are made under exact Specifications and patented by Denver Equipment Co.
TheRugged Construction of theSub-A tank is made of heavy steel, and joints are welded both inside and out. The shaft assemblies are bolted to a heavy steel beam which is securely connected to the tank. Partition plates can be changed in the field for right or left hand machine. Right hand machine is standard.
The Minerals Separation or M.S. Sub-aeration cells, a section of which is shown in Fig. 32, consists essentially of a series of square cells with an impeller rotating on a vertical shaft in the bottom of each. In some machines the impeller is cruciform with the blades inclined at 45, the top being covered with a flat circular plate which is an integral part of the casting, but frequently an enclosed pump impeller is used with curved blades set at an angle of 45 and with a central intake on the underside ; both patterns are rotated so as to throw the pulp upwards. Two baffles are placed diagonally in each cell above the impeller to break up the swirl of the pulp and to confine the agitation to the lower zone. Sometimes the baffles are covered with a grid consisting of two or three layers each composed of narrow wood or iron strips spaced about an inch apart. The sides and bottom of the cells in the lower or agitation zone are protected from wear by liners, which are usually made of hard wood, but which can, if desired, consist of plates of cast-iron or hard rubber. The section directly under the impeller is covered with a circular cast-iron plate with a hole in the middle for the admission of pulp and air. The hole communicates with a horizontal transfer passage under the bottom liner, through which the pulp reaches the cell. Air is introduced into each cell through a pipe passing through the bottom and delivering its supply directly under the impeller. A low-pressure blower is provided with all machines except the smallest, of which the impeller speed is fast enough to draw in sufficient air by suction for normal requirements.
The pulp is fed to the first cell through a feed opening communicating with the transfer passage, along which it passes, until, at the far end, it is drawn up through the hole in the bottom liner by the suction of the impeller and is thrown outwards by its rotation into the lower zone. The square shape of the cell in conjunction with the baffles converts the swirl into a movement of intense agitation, which breaks up the air entering at the same time into a cloud of small bubbles, disseminating them through the pulp. The amount of aeration can be accurately regulated to suit the requirements of each cell by adjustment of the valve on its air pipe.
Contact between the bubbles and the mineral particles probably takes place chiefly in the lower zone. The pumping action of the impeller forces the aerated pulp continuously past the baffles into the upper and quieter part of the cell. Here the bubbles, loaded with mineral, rise more or less undisturbed, dropping out gangue particles mechanically entangled between them and catching on the way up a certain amount of mineral that has previously escaped contact. The recovery of the mineral in this way can be increased at the expense of the elimination of the gangue by increasing the amount of aeration. The froth collects at the top of the cell and is scraped by a revolving paddle over the lipat the side into the concentrate launder. The pulp, containing the gangue and any mineral particles not yet attached to bubbles, circulates to some extent through the zone of agitation, but eventually passes out through a slot situated at the back of the cell above the baffles and flows thence over the discharge weir. The height of the latter is regulated by strips of wood or iron and governs the level of the pulp in the cell. The discharge of each weir falls by gravity into the transfer passage under the next cell and is drawn up as before by the impeller. The pulp passes in this way through the whole machine until it is finally discharged as a tailing, the froth from each cell being drawn off into the appropriate concentrate launder.
No pipes are normally fitted for the transference of froth or other middling product back to the head of the machine or to any intermediate point. Should this be necessary, however, the material can be taken by gravity to the required cell through a pipe, which is bent at its lower end to pass under the bottom liner and project into the transfer passage, thus delivering its product into the stream of pulp that is being drawn up by the impeller
Particulars of the various sizes of M.S. Machines are given in Table 21. It should be noted that the size of a machine is usually defined by the diameter of its impeller ; for instance, the largest one would be described as a 24-inch machine.
The Sub-A Machine, invented by A. W. Fahrenwald and developed in many respects as an improvement in the Minerals Separation Machine, from which it differs considerably in detail, particularly in the method of aerating the pulp, although the principle of its action is essentially the same. Its construction can be seen from Figs. 33 and 34.
In common with the M.S. type of machine, it consists of a series of square cells fitted with rotating impellers. Each cell, however, is of unit construction, a complete machine being built up by mounting the required number of units on a common foundation and connecting up the pipes which transfer the pulp from one cell to the next. The cells are constructed of welded steel. The impeller, which can be rubber-lined,if required, carries six blades set upright on a circular dished disc, and is securely fixed to the lower end of the vertical driving shaft. It is covered with a stationary hood, to which are attached a stand-pipe, a feed pipe, and the middling return pipes. The underside of the hood is fitted with a renewable liner of rubber or cast-iron. The pulp, entering the first cell through the feed pipe and sometimes through the middling pipes, falls on to the impeller, the rotation of which throws it outwards into the bottom zone of agitation. The suction effect due to the rotationof the impeller draws enough air down the standpipe to supply the aeration necessary for normal operation. A portion of the pulp, cascading over the open tops of the impeller blades, entraps and breaks up the entrained air, the resulting spray-like mixture being then thrown out into the lower zone of agitation, where it is disseminated through the pulp as a cloud of fine bubbles. Should this amount of aeration be insufficient, air can be blown in under slight pressure through a hole near the top of the stand-pipe, in which case a rubber bonnet is fastenedto the lower bearing and clamped round the top of the stand-pipe so as to seal the supply from the atmosphere.
The bottom part of the cell is protected from wear by renewable cast-iron or rubber liners. Four vertical baffles, placed diagonally on the top of the hood, break up the swirl of the pulp and intensify theagitation in the lower zone. The pumping action of the impeller combined with the rising current of air bubbles carries the pulp to the quieter upper zone, where the bubbles, already coated with mineral, travel upwards, drop out many of the gangue particles which may have become entangled with them, and finally collect on the surface of the pulp as a mineralizedfroth. One side of the cell is sloped outwards so as to form, in conjunction with a vertical baffle, a spitzkasten-shaped zone of quiet settlement, where any remaining particles of gangue that have been caught and held between the bubbles are shaken out of the froth as it flows to the overflow lip at the front of the cell. The baffle prevents rising bubbles from entering the outer zone, thus enabling the gangue material released from the froth to drop down unhindered into the lower zone. A revolving paddle scrapes the froth past the overflow lip into the concentrate launder.
Should the machine be required to handle more than the normal volume of froth, it is built with a spitzkasten zone on both sides of the cell. For the flotation of ores containing very little mineral the spitzkasten is omitted so as to crowd the froth into the smallest possible space, the front of the cell being made vertical for the purpose.
Circulation of the pulp through the lower zone of agitation is maintained by means of extra holes at the base of the stand-pipe on a level with the middling return pipes. An adjustable weir provides for the discharge of the pulp to the next cell, which it enters through a feed-pipe as before. Below the weir on a level with the hood is a small sand holeand pipe through which coarse material can pass direct to the next cell without having to be forced up over the weir. The same process is repeated in each cell of the series, the froth being scraped over the lip of the machine, while the pulp passes from cell to cell until it is finally discharged as a tailing from the last one. The middling pipes make it an easy matter for froth from any section of the machine to be returned if necessary to any cell without the use of pumps.
Table 22 gives particulars of the sizes and power requirements of Denver Sub-A Machines and Table 23 is an approximate guide to their capacities under different conditions. The number of cells needed
Onemethod of driving the vertical impeller shafts of M.S. Subaeration or Denver Sub-A Machines is by quarter-twist belts from a horizontal lineshaft at the back of the machine, the lineshaft being driven in turn by a belt from a motor on the ground. This method is not very satisfactory according to modern standards, firstly, because the belts are liable to stretch and slip off, and, secondly, because adequate protection againstaccidents due to the belts breaking is difficult to provide without making the belts themselves inaccessible. A more satisfactory drive, with which most M.S. Machines are equipped, consists of a lineshaft over the top of the cells from which each impeller is driven through bevel gears. The lineshaft can be driven by a belt from a motor on the ground, by Tex- ropes from one mounted on the frame work of the machine, or by direct coupling to a slow-speed motor. This overhead gear drive needs careful adjustment and maintenance. Although it may run satisfactorily for years, trouble has been experienced at times, generally in plants where skilled mechanics have not been available. The demand for something more easily adjusted led to the development of a special form of Tex-rope drive which is shown in Fig. 35. Every impeller shaft is fitted at the top with a grooved pulley, which is driven by Tex-ropes from a vertical motor. This method is standard on Denver Sub-A Machines, and M.S. Machines are frequently equipped with it as well, but the former type are not made with the overhead gear drive except to special order.
The great advantage of mechanically agitated machines is that every cell can be regulated separately, and that reagents can be added when necessary at any one of them. Since, as a general rule, the most highly flocculated mineral will become attached to a bubble in preference to a less floatable particle, in normal operation the aeration in the first few cells of a machine should not be excessive ; theoretically there should be no more bubbles in the pulp than are needed to bring up the valuable minerals. By careful control of aeration it should be possible for the bulk of the minerals to be taken off the first few cells at the feed end of the machine in a concentrate rich enough to be easily cleaned, and sometimes of high enough grade to be sent straight to the filtering section as a finished product. The level of the pulp in these cells is usually kept comparatively low in order to provide a layer of froth deep enough to give entangled particles of gangue every chance of dropping out, but it must not be so low that the paddles are prevented from skimming off the whole of the top layer of rich mineral. Towards the end of the machine a scavenging action is necessary to make certain that the least possible amount of valuable mineral escapes in the tailing, for which purpose the gates of the discharge weirs are raised higher than at the feed end, and the amountof aeration may have to be increased. The froth from the scavenging cells is usually returned to the head of the machine, the middling pipes of the Denver Sub-A Machine being specially designed for such a purpose. The regulation of the cleaning cells is much the same as that of the first few cells of the primary or roughing machine, to the head of which the tailing from the last of the cleaning cells is usually returned.
A blower is sometimes required with the M.S. Subaeration Machine. Since each cell is fitted with an air pipe and valve, accurate regulation of aeration is a simple matter. The Denver Sub-A, Kraut, and Fagergren Machines, however, are run without blowers, enough air being drawn into the machines by suction.
In the Geco New-Cell Flotation Cellthe pneumatic principle is utilized in conjunction with an agitating device. The machine, which is illustrated in Fig. 44, consists of a trough or cell made of steel or wood, whichever is more convenient, through the bottom of which projects a series of air pipes fitted with circular mats of perforated rubber. The method of securing the mat to the air pipe can be seen from Fig. 45. Over each mat rotates a moulded rubber disc of slightlylarger diameter at a peripheral speed of 2,500 ft. per minute. It is mounted on a driving spindle as shown in Fig. 46. Each spindle is supported and aligned by ball-bearings contained in a single dust- and dirt-proof casting, and each pair is driven from a vertical motor through Tex-ropes and grooved pulleys, a rigid steel structure supporting the whole series of spindles with their driving mechanism. The machine can be supplied, if required, however, with a quarter-twist drive from a lineshaft over flat pulleys.
The air inlet pipes are connected to a main through a valve by which the amount of air admitted to each mat can be accurately controlled. The air is supplied by a low-pressure blower working at about 2 lb. per square inch. It enters the cell through the perforations in the rubber mat and is split up into a stream of minute bubbles, which are distributed evenly throughout the pulp by the action of the revolving disc. By this means a large volume of finely-dispersed air is introduced withoutexcessive agitation. There is sufficient agitation, however, to produce a proper circulation in the cell, but not enough to cause any tendency to surge or to disturb the froth on the surface of the pulp. All swirling movement is checked by the liner-baffles with which the sides of the cell are lined ; their construction can be seen in Fig. 44. They are constructed of white cast iron and are designed to last the life of the machine, the absence of violent agitation making this possible.The pulp must be properly conditioned before entering the machine. It is admitted through a feed box at one end at a point above the first disc, and passes along the length of the cell to the discharge weir without being made to pass over intermediate weirs between the discs. The height of the weir at the discharge end thus controls the level of the pulp in the machine. The froth that forms on the surface overflows the froth lip in a continuous stream without the aid of scrapers, its depth being controlled at any point by means of adjustable lip strips combined with regulation of the air.The Geco New-Cell is made in four sizesviz., 18-, 24-, 36-, and 48-in. machines, the figure representing the length of the side of the squarecell. Particulars of the three smallest sizes are given in Table 27. Figures are not available for the largest size.
Industrial flotation machines can be divided into four classes: (1) mechanical, (2) pneumatic, (3) froth separation, and (4) column. The mechanical machine is clearly the most common type of flotation machine in industrial use today, followed by the rapid growth of the column machine. Mechanical machines consist of a mechanically driven impeller, which disperses air into the agitated pulp. In normal practice, this machine appears as a vessel having a number of impellers in series. Mechanical machines can have open flow of pulp between each impeller or are of cell-to-cell designs which have weirs between each impeller. The procedure by which air is introduced into a mechanical machine falls into two broad categories: self-aerating, where the machine uses the depression created by the impeller to induce air, and supercharged, where air is generated from an external blower. The incoming slurry feed to the mechanical flotation machine is introduced usually in the lower portion of the machine.Figure 7 shows a typical industrial flotation cell of each air delivery type.
The most rapidly growing class of flotation machine is the column machine, which is, as its name implies, a vessel having a large height-to-diameter ratio (from 5 to 20) in contrast to mechanical cells. The mechanism behind this machine to is provide a countercurrent flow of air bubbles and slurry with a long contact time and plenty of wash water. As might be expected, the major advantage of such a machine is the high separation grade that can be achieved, so that column cells are often used as a final concentrate cleaning step. Special care has to be exercised in the generation of fine air bubbles and controlling the feed rate to column cells.
Good mixing of pulp. To be effective, a flotation machine should maintain all particles uniformly in suspension within the pulp, including those of relatively high density and/or size. Good mixing of pulp is required for maximizing bubble-particle collision frequency.
Appropriate aeration and dispersion of fine air bubbles. An important requirement of any flotation machine is the ability to provide uniform aeration throughout as large a volume of the machine as is possible. In addition, the size distribution of the air bubbles generated by the machine is also important, but experience has shown that the proper choice of frother type and dosage generally dominates the bubble size distributions being produced.
Sufficient control of pulp agitation in the froth zone. As mentioned earlier, good mixing in the machine is important; however, equally important is that near and in the actual froth bed at the top of the machine, sufficiently smooth or quiescent pulp conditions must be maintained to ensure suspension of hydrophobed (collector coated) particles.
Efficient mass flow-mechanisms. It is also necessary in any flotation machine that appropriate provisions be made for feeding pulp into the machine and also for the efficient transport of froth concentrate and tailing slurry out of the machine.
Probably the most significant area of change in mechanical flotation machine design has been the dramatic increase in machine size. This is typified by the data ofFig. 8, which shows the increase in machine (cell) volume size that has occurred with a commonly used cell manufactured by Wemco. The idea behind this approach is that as machine size increases, both plant capital and operating costs per unit of throughput decrease.
The throughput capabilities of various cell designs will vary with flotation residence time and pulp density. The number of cells required for a given operation is determined from standard engineering mass balance calculations. In the design of a new plant, the characterization of each cell's volume and flotation efficiency is generally calculated from performing a laboratory-scale flotation on the same type of equipment on the ore in question, followed by the application of empirically derived design (scale-up) factors. Research work is currently under way to improve the understanding and performance of commercial flotation cells. Currently, flotation-cell design is primarily a proprietary function of the various cell manufacturers.
Flotation plants are built in multiple cell configurations (called banks), and the flow through various banks is adjusted in order to optimize plant recovery of the valuable as well as the valuable grade of the total recovered mass from flotation. This recovery vs grade trade-off is economically important in flotation, as increased recovery of the valuable is associated with decreased grade. For example, a 95% recovery of copper in the feed ore might give a concentrate grade of 18% Cu in the total recovered mass, while 80% Cu recovery might give a grade of 25% in the concentrate. Obviously, the higher the valuable recovery is, the higher the potential income, but if this higher recovery requires a great deal more grinding and/or expensive downstream processing (including further flotation) in order to upgrade the concentrate for metal refining such as smelting, the increase in potential recovery income may actually cause a net loss of total income. This grade-recovery optimization is generally worked out by individual flotation operators in each plant (and each mineral) and sets the operating philosophy of that plant.Figure 9 shows a typical industrial recovery vs grade trade-off curve for a copper sulfide ore containing pyrite. The higher the copper recovery is, the greater the amount of undesired pyrite contained in the concentrate.
The various banks of flotation cells in an industrial plant are given special names to denote the particular purpose of the banks. The rougher bank is the first group of cells that the pulp sees after size reduction. The goal of the roughers is to produce a concentrate with as high a recovery of valuable as possible with generally low grade of the valuable. The rejected gangue material from any bank of cells is commonly denoted as the tails or tailings. Usually, rougher tails are discarded so that valuable mineral not recovered in the rougher bank is lost. The concentrate of the rougher bank can be further concentrated, sometimes after additional grinding, in banks of cells called cleaners or recleaners. The tailings from the cleaners or recleaners can be recirculated to a bank of cells known as scavengers in order not to lose any valuable material in the upgrading process. Various banks of cells are also sometimes known by the particle size of the particular pulps being floated. Coarse particles, fine or slime particles, and middle-sized particles, denoted as middlings, can all be treated in separate banks.
As to overall capacities of flotation plants, the range is quite variable, depending on the type and value of the mineral being processed, the amount of valuable mineral in the feed ore to flotation, the degree and cost of size reduction involved, and the relative response of the valuable(s) to the flotation process. Smaller plants ranging in size from 500 to 5000 metric tons of feed per day are common, with feed materials having high amounts of valuable per ton of feed ore (>40%), such as coal, phosphate, and oxide ores. On the other hand, the sulfide minerals that are typically a small percentage of the ore (<10% and often less than 1%) require much greater capacity in order to achieve a reasonable economic return on investment. Thus, typical copper sulfide plants have capacities in the range of 20,000 to more than 60,000 metric tons of feed ore per day.
Conventional flotation machines house two functions in a single vessel: an intense mixing region where bubbleparticle collision and attachment occurs, and a quiescent region where the bubbleparticle aggregates separate from the slurry. The reactor/separator machines decouple these functions into two separate (or sometimes more) compartments. The cells are typically considered high-intensity machines due to the turbulent mixing in the reactor (see Section 12.9.5). The role of the separator is to allow sufficient time for mineralized bubbles to separate from the tailing stream which generally requires relatively short residence time (when compared to mechanical cells or columns).
Some of the earliest machine designs were of the reactor/separator-type. Figure 12.80 shows a design from a patent by Hebbard (1913). Feed slurry was mixed with entrained air in an agitation box (reactor) and flowed into the separation vessel where froth was collected as overflow. The design would be the basis for the Minerals Separation Corporation standard machine and early flotation cells used in the United States (Lynch et al., 2010).
The Davcra cell (Figure 12.81) was developed in the 1960s and is considered to be the first high-intensity machine. The cell could be thought of as a column or reactor/separator device. Air and feed slurry are contacted and injected into the tank through a cyclone-type dispersion nozzle, the energy of the jet of pulp being dissipated against a vertical baffle. Dispersion of air and collection of particles by bubbles occurs in the highly agitated region of the tank, confined by the baffle. The pulp flows over the baffle into a quiescent region designed for bubblepulp disengagement. Although not widely used, Davcra cells replaced some mechanical cleaner machines at Chambishi copper mine in Zambia, with reported lower operating costs, reduced floor area, and improved metallurgical performance.
Several attempts have been made to develop more compact column-type devices, the Jameson cell (Jameson, 1990; Kennedy, 1990; Cowburn et al., 2005) being a successful example (Figure 12.82). The Jameson cell was developed in the 1980s jointly by Mount Isa Mines Ltd and the University of Newcastle, Australia. The cell was first installed for cleaning duties in base metal operations (Clayton et al., 1991; Harbort et al., 1994), but it has also found use in coal plants and in roughing and preconcentrating duties. The original patent refers to the Jameson cell as a column method, but it can also be considered a reactor/separator machine: contact between the feed and the air stream is made using a plunging slurry jet in a vertical downcomer (the reactor), and the airslurry mixture flows downwards to discharge and disengage into a shallow pool of pulp in the bottom of a short cylindrical tank (the separator). The disengaged bubbles rise to the top of the tank to overflow into a concentrate launder, while the tails are discharged from the bottom of the vessel. Air is self-aspirated (entrained) by the action of the plunging jet. The air rate is influenced by jet velocity and slurry density and level in the separator chamber.
The Jameson cell has been widely used in the coal industry in Australia since the 1990s. Figure 12.83 shows a typical cell layout where fine coal slurry feeds a central distributor which splits the stream to the downcomers. Clean coal is seen overflowing as concentrate from the separation vessel. The major advantage of the cell in this application is the ability to produce clean concentrates in one stage of operation by reducing entrainment, especially when wash water is used. It also has a novel application in copper solvent extraction/electrowinning circuits, where it is used to recover entrained organic droplets from electrolyte (Miller and Readett, 1992).
The Contact cell (Figure 12.84) was developed in the 1990s in Canada. The feed slurry is placed in direct contact with pressurized air in an external contactor which comprises a draft tube and an orifice plate. The slurryair mixture is fed from the contactor to the column-type separation vessel, where mineralized bubbles rise to form froth. Contact cells employ froth washing similar to conventional flotation columns and Jameson cells. Contact cells have been implemented in operations in North America, Africa, and Europe.
The IMHOFLOT V-Cell (Figure 12.85(a)) was developed in the 19801990s and evolved from earlier designs developed in Germany in the 19601970s (Imhof et al., 2005; Lynch et al., 2010). Conditioned feed pulp is mixed with air in an external self-aeration unit above the flotation cell. The airslurry mixture descends a downcomer pipe and is introduced to the separation vessel via a distributor box and ring pipe with nozzles that redirect the flow upward in the cell. The separation vessel is fitted with an adjustable froth crowding cone which can be used to control mass pull. The concentrate overflows to an external froth launder, while the tailings stream exits at the base of the separation vessel. The V-Cell has been used to float sulfide and oxide ores with the largest operation being an iron ore application (Imhof et al., 2005).
The IMHOFLOT G-Cell (Figure 12.85(b)) was introduced in 2001 and employs the same external self-aerating unit as the V-Cell. The airslurry mixture which exits the aeration unit is fed to an external distributor box (located above the separation vessel) where pulp is split and fed to the separation vessel tangentially via feed pipes. The cell is unusual as an internal launder located at the center of the vessel collects froth. The centrifugal motion of the slurry enhances froth separation with residence times being ca. 30s.
The Staged Flotation Reactor (SFR) (Figure 12.86) is a recent development in the minerals industry. By sequencing the three processesparticle collection, bubble/slurry disengagement, and froth recoveryand assigning each to a purpose-built chamber, the SFR aims to optimize each of the three processes independently.
The SFR incorporates an agitator in the first (collection) chamber designed to provide high energy intensity (kWm3) and induce multiple particle passes through the high shear impeller zone, hence giving high collection efficiency. Slurry flows by gravity through the reactor stages, that is, there is no need to apply agitation to suspend solids, only for particle collection. As such, impeller speed can be adjusted online in correlation with desired recovery without sanding. The second tank is designed to deaerate the slurry (bubble disengagement) and rapidly recover froth to the launder without dropback. The froth recovery unit is tailored for use of wash water and for high solids flux. Efficient particle collection and high froth recovery translate into fewer, smaller cells, resulting in a smaller footprint and building height, with lower power consumption, and the potential for good selectivity in both roughing and cleaning applications.
Induced air flotation machines have gained a degree of popularity within certain sections of the minerals processing industry because of their ability to produce small bubbles at relatively high energy efficiency. The most common of such machines is the Jameson Cell. A downcomer protrudes out of the bubbly liquid in which is housed a plunging jet. Because this jet is at high velocity the pressure within the downcomer is low due to the Bernoulli equation, and air is induced into the downcomer creating a plume of bubbles within the liquid, which rise to form a foam. There are major problems with operating Jameson Cells because their high demand for surfactant causes downstream residual frother issues. (It is noted, as an aside, that frother strippers are being developed to remove residual frother in flotation circuits, and these are identical to foam fractionation units.) Notwithstanding that Jameson Cell technology has failed to live up to its promise, it has been successfully used as a pilot-scale foam reactor to effect the autothermal thermophilic aerobic digestion (ATAD) of high strength wastewater sludge produced at a chicken processing factory. The advantage that induced gas systems have over alternative pneumatic foam systems is their very high gasliquid surface area per unit volume of foam due to their small bubbles. This feature of the foams would also be an advantage in foam fractionation because it creates high flux of gasliquid surface. However, to the authors knowledge, no attempt has ever been made to use induced gas systems as foam fractionators.
The Denver DR flotation machine, which is an example of a typical froth flotation unit used in the mining industry, is illustrated in Figure 1.47. The pulp is introduced through a feed box and is distributed over the entire width of the first cell. Circulation of the pulp through each cell is such that, as the pulp comes into contact with the impeller, it is subjected to intense agitation and aeration. Low pressure air for this purpose is introduced down the standpipe surrounding the shaft and is thoroughly disseminated throughout the pulp in the form of minute bubbles when it leaves the impeller/diffuser zone, thus assuring maximum contact with the solids, as shown in Figure 1.47. Each unit is suspended in an essentially open trough and generates a ring doughnut circulation pattern, with the liquid being discharged radially from the impeller, through the diffuser, across the base of the tank, and then rising vertically as it returns to the eye of the impeller through the recirculation well. This design gives strong vertical flows in the base zone of the tank in order to suspend coarse solids and, by recirculation through the well, isolates the upper zone which remains relatively quiescent.
Froth baffles are placed between each unit mechanism to prevent migration of froth as the liquid flows along the tank. The liquor level is controlled at the end of each bank section by a combination of weir overflows and dart valves which can be automated. These units operate with a fully flooded impeller, and a low pressure air supply is required to deliver air into the eye of the impeller where it is mixed with the recirculating liquor at the tip of the air bell. Butterfly valves are used to adjust and control the quantity of air delivered into each unit.
Each cell is provided with an individually controlled air valve. Air pressure is between 108 and 124 kN/m2 (7 and 23 kN/m2 gauge) depending on the depth and size of the machine and the pulp density. Typical energy requirements for this machine range from 3.1 kW/m3 of cell volume for a 2.8 m3 unit to 1.2 kW/m3 for a 42 m3 unit.
In the froth flotation cell used for coal washing, illustrated in Figure 1.48, the suspension contains about 10 per cent of solids, together with the necessary reagents. The liquid flows along the cell bank and passes over a weir, and directly enters the unit via a feed pipe and feed hood. Liquor is discharged radially from the impeller, through the diffuser, and is directed along the cell base and recirculated through ports in the feed hood. The zone of maximum turbulence is confined to the base of the tank; a quiescent zone exists in the upper part of the cell. These units induce sufficient air to ensure effective flotation without the need for an external air blower.
Most of the industrial flotation machines used in the coal industry are mechanical, conventional cells. These machines consist of a series of agitated tanks (usually 48 cells) through which fine coal slurry is passed. The agitators are used to ensure that larger particles are kept in suspension and to disperse air that enters down through the rotating shaft assembly (Fig. 11.13). Air is either injected into the cell using a blower or drawn into the cell by the negative pressure created by the rotating impeller. For coal flotation, trough designs that permit open flow between cells along the bank are more common than cell-to-cell designs that are separated by individual weirs.
Some of the major manufacturers of flotation equipment include Wemco (FLSmidth), Metso, Svedala, and Outokumpu. The commercial units are very similar in basic design and function, although some slight variations exist in terms of cell geometry and impeller configuration. Machines with large specific surface areas are generally preferred for coal flotation, due to the fast flotation kinetics of coal and the large froth solids loadings. Flotation machines with individual cell volumes of up to 28m3 are commonly used due to advantages in terms of capital, operating and maintenance costs. Some manufacturers also offer tank machines, which consist of relatively short cylindrical tanks equipped with conventional impellers. The simplified structural design, which allows these machines to be much larger, can offer significant savings in terms of capital and power costs for some installations. Tank cells with volumes as large as 100m3 are already in operation at coal plants in Australia.
Unlike conventional, mechanically agitated flotation machines, which tend to use relatively shallow rectangular tanks, column cells used in the coal industry are usually tall vessels with heights typically ranging from 7 to 16m depending on the application. Unlike conventional flotation machines, columns do not use mechanical agitation and are typically characterized by an external sparging system, which injects air into the bottom of the column cell. The absence of intense agitation promotes higher degrees of selectivity and can aid in the recovery of coarse particles.
In general, feed slurry enters the column at one or more feed points located in the upper third of the column body and descends against a rising swarm of fine bubbles generated by the air sparging system (Fig. 11.14). Hydrophobic particles that collide with, and attach to, the bubbles rise to the top of the column, eventually reaching the interface between the pulp (collection zone) and the froth (cleaning zone). The location of this interface, which can be adjusted by the operator, is held constant by means of an automatic control loop that regulates a valve on the column tailings line. Varying the location of the interface will increase or decrease the height of the froth zone. The froth is transported from the froth zone into the product launder via mass action.
Methods of sparging in columns are numerous and include air lances, porous tubes, eductors, static mixers, and Cavitation-TubesTM. The air rate used in a column is selected according to the feed rate and concentrate-production requirements. This parameter typically has the largest effect on the operating point of the column with respect to the ash/yield curve. The bubbles generated by the air sparging system are sized to provide the maximum amount of bubble surface area given a constant energy input. In other words, the designs of the various sparging devices are engineered to provide the smallest size and largest number of bubbles possible.
For an equivalent volumetric capacity, the cross-sectional surface area of a column cell is much smaller than that of a conventional cell. This reduced area is beneficial for promoting froth stability and allowing deep froth beds to be formed. This is an important aspect of column flotation, as a deep froth bed facilitates froth washing for the removal of unwanted impurities from the float product. Wash water, added at the top of the column, percolates through the froth zone displacing dirty process water and non-selectively entrained particles trapped between the bubbles. In addition, froth wash water serves to stabilize and add mobility to the froth. Sufficient water must be added to ensure that all of the feed water that would otherwise normally report to the froth product is replaced with fresh or clarified water. It has been reported that less than 1% of the feed pulp and associated clays will report to the froth in a well-operated column (Luttrell et al., 1999). The ability to maintain and wash a deep froth layer is the main reason cited for the improved product grades when comparing column cells to conventional cells.
In contrast, conventional mechanical cells do not operate with deep froths. Therefore, these devices allow some portion of the ultrafine mineral slimes to be recovered with the water that reports to the froth. Consequently product quality is reduced by this non-selective hydraulic conveyance (i.e., entrainment) of gangue into the product launder. In fact, fine particles (<0.045mm) have a tendency to report to the froth concentrate in direct proportion to the amount of product water recovered. As such, the flotation operator is often forced to make the decision to either pull hard on the cells to maintain yield (e.g., wet froth), or run the cells less aggressively to maintain grade (e.g., dry froth).
The primary advantage of utilizing wash water is the ability to provide a superior product grade when compared to conventional flotation processes. This capability is illustrated by the test data summarized in Fig. 11.15, which compares column flotation technology with an existing bank of conventional cells. As shown, the separation data for the column cells utilizing wash water are far superior to those obtained from the conventional flotation bank. In fact, the data for the column cells tend to fall just below the separation curve predicted by release analysis (Dell et al., 1972). A release analysis is an indication of the ultimate flotation performance and is often regarded as wash-ability for flotation. This figure suggests that columns provide a level of performance that would be difficult to achieve even after multiple stages of cleaning by conventional machines.
There are a significant number of full-scale column installations currently in commercial service around the world. The most popular brands of columns include the CPT CoalPro (Eriez), Jameson, and Microcel columns. Although the Jameson cell does not have the traditional column geometry, it is included since it typically uses wash water to improve ash rejection. Details related to the specific design features of the various column technologies are available in the literature (McKay et al., 1988; Finch and Dobby, 1990; Yoon et al., 1992; Manlapig et al., 1993; Davis et al., 1995; Rubinstein, 1995; Wyslouzil, 1997). The primary difference between the various columns used in the coal industry is the type of air sparging system employed. These include porous bubblers, static mixers, and dynamic air injectors. Details related to the features and operation of these systems have been discussed extensively in the literature (Dobby and Finch, 1986a; Xu and Finch, 1989; Huls et al., 1991; Groppo and Parekh, 1992; Yoon et al., 1992; Finch, 1995). Ideally, the spargers should produce small, uniformly sized bubbles at a desired aeration rate. Other factors, such as equipment costs, mechanical reliability, wear resistance, and serviceability also need to be carefully considered prior to selecting an industrial sparging system.
Due to economy of scale, recent trends in the coal industry have shifted away from the installation of large numbers of smaller units toward fewer, large units with diameters up to 5m or more. Although most column installations involve the treatment of particles finer than 0.150mm, several recent column operations have been installed to treat coarser particles, such as minus 1mm feeds or deslimed 0.1500.045mm feeds. Additionally, a move to more economical cells in terms of energy efficiency has been realized as manufacturers focus on the generation of the required air bubble dispersions while using significantly less power than traditional approaches. One such device is the Eriez StackCell, which utilizes both pre-aeration methods in conjunction with traditional froth washing (Davis et al., 2011) to maximize efficiency with regard to both installation and operating cost.
The two most important requirements of laboratory flotation machines are reproducibility and performance similar to commercial operations. These two criteria are not always satisfied. The basic laboratory machines are scaled down replicas of commercial machines such as Denver, Wemco and Agitair. In the scale down, there are inevitable compromises between simplification of manufacture and attempts to simulate full scale performance. There are scaling errors, for example, in the number of impeller and stator blades and various geometric ratios. Reproducibility in semi-batch testing requires close control of impeller speed, air flow rate, pulp level and concentrate removal.
Until now, deaeration tanks always had to be placed underneath the flotation machine and also frequently in the cellar of a facility in order to ensure a sufficient height difference for the conveyance of foam. In addition, the tanks are open on top and can overflow with excess foam. That is now a thing of the past with the Deaeration Foam Pump (DFP) 4000. The new pump can be linked directly to the deinking machine and forms a clean and closed disposal system. Because it can be placed at the same level as the flotation cells, the entire flotation system saves more space than previous systems. A cellar or an additional floor height for the flotation is no longer required. The deaeration results are very impressive with the DFP 4000 from Voith Paper. The air content of the foam mass is reduced when passing through the pump from 80% to an average of 8%. Conventional deaeration systems offer approximately 12%. In addition, by using the DFP 4000, upstream foam destroyers, downstream long piping as well as pumps with high head pressures to overcome the floor height can be dispensed. With the DFP 4000, it is possible to deaerate and convey the foam, which is loaded with inks and other impurities, within a single machine. As a compact unit, it fully replaces the foam destroyer, foam tank stirring unit, and pump of previous deaeration systems. This means a clear reduction in investment costs for the tank, stirring unit, pipes, pumps, and floor space.
The DFP 4000, developed by Voith, is a compact unit that integrates several elements of the flotation deinking system. This combines the pump and deaeration machine into one unit. The deaeration foam pump replaces the foam destroyer, foam tank, stirring unit, and pump and costs less than the current suite of equipment. The DFP 4000 achieves better deaeration of the foam than conventional systems.
The DFP 4000 has two parts. In the upper part, foam is predeaerated by a mechanical foam destroyer. In the lower part, centrifugal force produced by a quick rotational movement further deaerates the foam. The resulting low-air-content suspension is brought to the required pressure so that it can be conveyed out of the machine to the next process stage. The air released during deaeration is conveyed out of the machine through a special air chamber on the side so that the airflow does not prevent the foam entering from above (Dreyer,2010).
The new pump can be linked directly to the deinking machine, forming a clean and closed disposal system. Because the deaeration pump can be placed at the same level as the flotation cells, the entire system requires less space than previous systems, so a cellar (or additional floor height) is no longer required to accommodate the system. When the foam mass passes through the DFP 4000, the foams air content is reduced from 80% to an average of 8% (Voith,2011a). Conventional deaeration systems reduce the air content to approximately 12%. The first DFP 4000 operating in a paper mill has been in service since September 2009 (Dreyer,2010). The benefits of the DFP 4000 are summarized in Table11.9 (Dreyer,2010; Voith,2011a).
Batch testing has been carried out using a specially designed 21 tumbler for mixing, and a standard Denver flotation machine for separation. A typical charge of the soil sample ranged from 200 to 600g, and the amount of coal varied depending on the contaminant concentration.
Figure 1 shows the block diagram of the 6T/day continuous unit. A slurry of contaminated soil and coal is fed at optimal solids concentration to a specially designed tumbler. In the front section of the tumbler, as a result of rotary motion, the solids are mixed and dispersed. In another section of the tumbler, layering, compaction and abrasion take place. After being discharged from the tumbler, the contents are screened into two streams. The 1mm particle size stream is directed to a high shear mixer where the oil-wetted coal particles are conditioned. The slurry is then transfered to flotation cells, where the coal microagglomerates, in the form of froth, are separated from clean soil. To facilitate dewatering and improve handleability of the combustible product, the froth can be subsequently fed into the low shear mixer for further agglomeration.
Flotation has progressed and developed over the years; recent trends to achieve better liberation by fine grinding have intensified the search for more advanced means of improving selectivity. This involves not only more selective flotation agents but also better flotation equipment. Since the froth product in conventional flotation machines contains entrained fine gangue, which is carried into the froth with feed water, the use of froth spraying was suggested in the late 1950s to eliminate this type of froth contamination. The flotation column patented in Canada in the early 1960s and marketed by the Column Flotation Company of Canada, Ltd., combines these ideas in the form of wash water supplied to the froth. The countercurrent wash water introduced at the top of a long column prevents the feed water and the slimes that it carries from entering an upper layer of the froth, thus enhancing selectivity.
The microbubble flotation column (Microcel) developed at Virginia Tech is based on the basic premise that the rate (k) at which fine particles collide with bubbles increases as the inverse cube of the bubble size (Db), i.e., k1/Db3. In the Microcel, small bubbles in the range of 100500m are generated by pumping a slurry through an in-line mixer while introducing air into the slurry at the front end of the mixer. The microbubbles generated as such are injected into the bottom of the column slightly above the section from which the slurry is with drawn for bubble generation. The microbubbles rise along the height of the column, pick up the coal particles along the way, and form a layer of froth at the top section of the column. Like most other columns, it utilizes wash water added to the froth phase to remove the entrained ash-forming minerals. Advantages of the Microcel are that the bubble generators are external to the column, allowing for easy maintenance, and that the bubble generators are nonplugging. An 8-ft diameter column uses four 4-in. in-line mixers to produce 56 tons of clean coal from a cyclone overflow containing 50% finer than 500 mesh.
Another interesting and quite different column was developed at Michigan Tech. It is referred to as a static tube flotation machine, and it incorporates a packed-bed column filled with a stack of corrugated plates. The packing elements arranged in blocks positioned at right angles to each other break bubbles into small sizes and obviate the need for a sparger. Wash water descends through the same flow passages as air (but countercurrently) and removes entrained particles from the froth product. It was shown in both the laboratory and the process demonstration unit that this device handles extremely well fine below 500-mesh material.
Another novel concept is the Air-Sparged Hydrocyclone developed at the University of Utah. In this device, the slurry fed tangentially through the cyclone header into the porous cylinder to develop a swirl flow pattern intersects with air sparged through the jacketed porous cylinder. The froth product is discharged through the overflow stream.
The process is carried out in a flotation cell or tank, of which there are two basic types, mechanical and pneumatic. Within each of these categories, there are two subtypes, those that operate as a single cell, and those that are operated as a series or bank of cells. A bank of cells (Fig. 8) is preferred because this makes the overall residence times more uniform (i.e., more like plug flow), rather than the highly diverse residence times that occur in a single (perfectly mixed) tank.
FIGURE 8. Flotation section of a 80,000t/d concentrating plant, showing the arrangement of the flotation cells into banks. A small part of the grinding section can be seen through the gap in the wall. [Courtesy Joy Manufacturing Co.]
The purpose of the flotation cell is to attach hydrophobic particles to air bubbles, so that they can float to the surface, form a froth, and can be removed. To do this, a flotation machine must maintain the particles in suspension, generate and disperse air bubbles, promote bubbleparticle collision, minimize bypass and dead spaces, minimize mechanical passage of particles to the froth, and have sufficient froth depth to allow nonhydrophobic (hydrophilic) particles to return to the suspension.
Pneumatic cells have no mechanical components in the cell. Agitation is generally by the inflow of air and/or slurry, and air bubbles are usually introduced by an injector. Until comparatively recently, their use was very restricted. However, the development of column flotation has seen a resurgence of this type of cell in a wider, but still restricted, range of applications. While the total volume of cell is still of the same order as that of a conventional mechanical cell, the floor space and energy requirements are substantially reduced. But the main advantage is that the cell provides superior countercurrent flow to that obtained in a traditional circuit (see Fig. 11), and so they are now often used as cleaning units.
Mechanical cells usually consist of long troughs with a series of mechanisms. Although the design details of the mechanisms vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, all consist of an impeller that rotates within baffles. Air is drawn or pumped down a central shaft and is dispersed by the impeller. Cells also vary in profile, degree of baffling, the extent of walling between mechanisms, and the discharge of froth from the top of the cell.
Selection of equipment is based on performance (represented by grade and recovery), capacity (metric tons per hour per cubic meter); costs (including capital, power, maintenance), and subjective factors.