The development of an experimental technique for UG-2 ore flotation.
Moodley, Taswald Llewelyn.
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Production of platinum and associated metals is a major source of revenue for South Africa. Significant losses occur in the concentrating stage (10 to 15 per cent) and this research is focused on optimising platinum flotation. Research begins by conducting laboratory batch flotation tests. However, subsequent pilot-plant tests often produce different results. It is believed these differences arise from the artificial nature of laboratory techniques. This project was focused on improving flotation techniques in the laboratory. The largest source of platinum in South Africa is the UG2 reef and two samples of this ore were used for testing: ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ore. These had different characteristics with regards to the recovery of PGMs and the presence of talc. The latter is an unwanted floatable mineral, which must be depressed to prevent excessive recovery. The conventional laboratory test procedure makes use of batch tests in various sizes of flotation cells. The procedure was made more realistic, by using four stages of flotation, rather than just two, to mimic a typical platinum flotation plant. The use of four stages made it possible to separate the fast-floating and slow-floating stages and to control froth conditions accordingly. Attention was also given to the fact that in laboratory tests, water is often added to the ‘cleaner’ stage of flotation, to make up the level. Experiments showed that this dilution, which does not take place in practice, had a significant impact on overall efficiency. A method of measuring frother concentration was developed and used to determine the realistic level of frother in cleaning tests. Tests at these levels of frother concentration showed that significant improvements could be made to plant performance, by making use of a thickener to reduce the frother concentration in the cleaning stages. The improved test procedure was used on both good and bad ores, and the effect of regrinding was also tested. A combined solids recovery of 2 % over both cleaners was targeted for all test work. At this recovery, the regrinding of the bad ore increased the PGM recovery from 67 to 76 per cent at the cost of an additional 8 g/t depressant. An investigation of the effect of frother concentration in the cleaning stage, using good ore, demonstrated that that rejection of chromite could be improved significantly by reducing frother concentration. The tests mimicked the use of a thickener to separate some of the water with a high concentration of frother. Tests conducted on the good ore showed that use of two thickeners, as opposed to none, reduced the Cr2O3 content of the final concentrate from 4.2 to 3.2 per cent for the equivalent concentrate mass and PGM recovery. The depressant requirement was also reduced from 67 to 55 g/t. These tests provided insight on how to improve performance on a platinum flotation plant, particularly when floating the bad ore.