Monday, 14 September 2009

What next for flotation research?

Flotation '09 is looking like it will be as successful as the previous event in Cape Town 2 years ago. There is a very full international programme, only two exhibit booths remain available for rental, and the conference is still eight weeks away!!
Flotation was patented over 100 years ago, so it is amazing how research continues to be so intensive in this area. In the 1990's column flotation was being researched by just about everybody, there were books published and conferences dedicated solely to this process. Judging from the comments on the MEI Online Forum, however, columns may not have lived up to their earlier expectations, and there is only one paper at Flotation '09 with 'column' in the title. Very large mechanical cells now seem to be in vogue.
Which all leads me to the question, where is flotation research going? I would like your views on what you feel might be the favoured topics in say five years' time. Reducing energy consumption must be one of the priorities?


  1. The following may be seen as the major future trends:
    1. Improve performance: Minimize use of energy and additives, maximize throughput, eliminate bottlenecks, tighter coordination with upstream and downstream processes
    2. Increase robustness: Increase the wear life, prevent unplanned stoppages, minimize downtime, implement preventive instead reactive maintenance
    3. Environmental protection: Timely response to early warnings
    Tighter supervision of metallurgical recovery and floatation cell availability is becoming the major factor to increase performance. Automation role will increase with smart instrumentation, predictive maintenance and tight controls as prevailing factors

  2. One of the topics of interest may be fine particle processing . As the metal conntent in ROM ore is going down, we will encounter more of disseminated mineralisation involving fine liberation size in future. Hence treatment of fines could be one future challenge.

  3. There is nothing new here Rangarajan. This has been a topic of interest for decades.

  4. True, those are old topics. We may talk about futuristic ones but there are fundamental floatation issues still not resolved. Sorry, if my comment may be too basic but this is about making the mining industry competitive and receptive to technologies already used elswhere. Is it fair to state, mining industry seems to be slow in accepting best and most sophisticated technologies for operational improvements like smart automation, automatic sampling and tagging, on-line simulations with direct impact to O&M, etc. ?

  5. The bubble–particle attachment and detachment interactions are less understood in terms of their underlying phenomena because they are essentially controlled by a number of factors, including chemistry and physical chemistry of the particle and air bubble surfaces. Quantification and mathematical modelling of the processes of attachment and detachment is more difficult than that of collision, and at this point of time there is no mathematical model to optimise the flotation process by taking this two phenomena into account.
    The behaviour of the bubble and its velocity, shape, size and trajectory to the approaching mineral particle is an area that requires further understanding and froth flotation of minerals can be improved if the bubble–particle attachment and detachment is fully understood

  6. We are now reaching a point where high definition mineralogy is becoming particularly useful in quantitative research and finding application in ore body valuation.

    As such, I suspect we will see a number of papers looking for the holy grail, namely: relating mineral textural data and surface kinetic data to kinetic distributions (rates and extent of recoveries). I think we may all be surprised by the speed this will be achieved.

    This would be most useful in variability assessment and production forecasting.

  7. Another topic of particular interest, may be the modeling of the froth zone. Works arising from Australia and Canada in 2009/2010 should lay the foundation for a more comprehensive froth model.

    These models may well be fleshed out over the next 5 years. Hopefully industry will be able to use this data to improve coarse particle flotation in the scavenger circuits.


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