Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Flotation has a bright future

One of the members of the LinkedIn Minerals Engineering group asks the question "with head grades decreasing all the time will flotation still be there in 30 years?"

I would bet my life that it will be (not too risky a bet, as I will be 95 at the time), but it is a strange question, as surely flotation will be even more important as ore grades decrease and minerals become more finely disseminated.

Interest in flotation never wanes, after over 100 years development. I notice that a current headline in MEI Online announces that the 300th Jameson Cell has been sold, and new uses are continuously being found.

Flotation is MEI's premier conference, attracting 200 delegates in 2009, and looking like it will be even bigger this year, with 13 major companies already providing corporate support for Flotation '11, and other sponsors imminent.

Coffee break at Flotation '09
Although registration will not open until July, we are now inviting companies to take the early opportunity of reserving exhibition space

The exhibition hall at the Vineyard Hotel provides maximum exposure, as this is where delegates break for coffee and lunch. Only 18 booths can be accommodated, and a number have already been reserved. Take a look at the exhibition at a recent MEI Conference on YouTube.

Also, a reminder that if you would like to present a paper at the conference, your abstract should be submitted by the end of June.


  1. Yes, flotation has a bright future in the mineral field, environmental engineering and biotechnologies related to these subjects. Have to carry on !

    Mauricio Torem, UFRJ, Brazil

  2. I believe that flotation will remain one of the most important tools in the mineral processing engineer's toolbox. As shallow surface metal deposits are depleted, the sulfide minerals become more important. Concentration of those minerals before smelting or pressure oxidation leaching is an economic necessity. Gravity separation is a great tool also, but difficult to apply to ores that require fine liberation sizes. Magnetic and electrostatic separation are also great tools, but both also have obvious limitations.
    Only certain ores and minerals are suitable for direct whole ore leaching and almost none are suitable for direct smelting anymore. As grades get lower and more complex, mineral processors will have to make better use of our entire tool box, and flotation has proven its adaptability for very small tonnage operations as well as very large ones and has been successfully used for minerals as varied as gold and potash to old school energy minerals like coal and the newest green energy requirement, the rare earths. Flotation is rarely ever a sole means of producing a final product, but it is and will remain an important step in the process.

    Robert Allgood, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., USA

  3. Bright? Yes Indeed!! But what is the source of the light?
    No better options? Our ingenuity as an industry (practitioners /researchers / educators)?
    I think that there are exciting (all be it challenging) times ahead with plenty to engage in - and discuss- at Flotation 11 - looking forward to it!!

    Dee Bradshaw, JKMRC, Australia

  4. The flotation process will continue to technically develop.

    Its use as low cost 'preconcentration' step ahead of the expensive metal separation processes will continue to grow.
    My sense is the recycling industry will be an area of flotation growth.

    While there has been much improvement in complex multi-metal sulphides flotation, there are still many oppurtunites, especially with minor metal sulphide separations (As, Bi minerals from copper concentrates for example).

    I would like to see more investigation of 'oxidised' ore flotation chemistry, those portions of sulphide ore-bodies that do not float well.

    Trevor Yeomans, Silver Standard Resources Inc., Canada

  5. Since Robin Batterham provocatively announced the death of flotation in his keynote address at the Centenary of Flotation Conference in 2005, there has been quite a lot of discussion on the subject. My personal feeling is that flotation is still going to be with us for a long time, for the same reason that I still listen to music on CD and watch movies on DVD. I have a lot invested in that technology, which I have yet to be persuaded that it is worth my time and money to replace (e.g. with downloads from the internet). With many companies the world over currently investing millions of dollars in new flotation cells, it is unlikely that these cells will be ripped out soon, even if newer and better alternatives to flotation are developed – unless these alternatives are very, very much better (I don’t listen to my audio cassette tapes very much any more; nor do I perform calculations using a slide rule or logarithmic tables). Yes, we should be looking for alternatives to flotation; but in the meantime, there are many opportunities for improving operating flotation plants with little to no additional investment. And new technologies such as automated mineral liberation analysis, numerical modeling using parallel computers, and positron emission particle tracking (to trace the path of particles or bubbles in a flotation pulp or froth), to mention a few, are enhancing our understanding of flotation in exciting new ways previously undreamed of. Flotation ’11 will be a great forum for presenting, discussing and debating some of these new ideas and initiatives in both flotation research and practice.

    J.-P. Franzidis, University of Cape Town, South Africa

  6. We have learned a lot about flotation over the years. We need to get better at optimizing the grinding/flotation circuits. Suggest you look at the dynamic simulators available in You tube.

    Osvaldo Bascur, OSIsoft, USA


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