Monday, 13 November 2017

Much to look forward to in the next 4 days at Flotation '17

I opened the Fundamentals Symposium this morning, thanking our sponsors and welcoming the first of our 255 delegates from 30 countries, who will be participating in Flotation '17 this week.

I highlighted the crucial importance of flotation, not only to the mining industry, but to modern society (more info in posting of 16 October). In 2016, 166 flotation papers were published in Elsevier peer-reviewed journals, compared with 24 on gravity concentration and 7 on magnetic and electrical separation, the rival physical concentration techniques. I have heard it argued at very large mineral processing congresses that there is nothing really new in flotation and that research is in many cases treading on old ground. While this might be true of many of the papers presented at these congresses, this week's focused timetable demonstrates that flotation continues to thrive and evolve and that there is much to report that is innovative.
The world's largest cell,
the FLSmidth SuperCell
This morning we will hear of remarkable developments in mathematical modelling, which have enabled reliable simulation of flotation, for optimisation, and design of circuits and of the very large cells which are now being utilised. When I began my career in mineral processing almost 50 years ago, I could not have envisaged the massive machines which are being used today, which have reduced overall capital and operating costs and facilitated control and instrumentation of flotation circuits. We will hear much more of this in the Applications Symposium.
Since the development of xanthates in the early 20th century, flotation reagents have been developed to treat virtually every known ore type, and there is a bewildering array. Over the next two days we will see how reagent chemistry has to adapt to treat increasingly lower grade and refractory deposits and how the range of flotation is being extended via these new and enhanced reagents into the treatment of wastes, high-tech metals and rare earths, all contributing to the goal of the circular economy.
Flotation has an exciting future, as does the mining industry, which is set to boom with the move around the world to end the era of the internal combustion engine and herald the new era of the electric car (posting of 30 August). There will be a huge increase in demand for copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, graphite and other elements, all of which are produced from finite resources. Although these elements are in abundance, as they are exploited available deposits will inevitably decline in grade and become more refractory, and flotation must evolve to allow their economic extraction.


  1. Barry,
    Yes, I am personally looking forward to know of some success stories of plant performance studies using the models and also on any bio-degradable flotation reagents.
    All the best.

  2. Surprising that there were only 7 papers on magnetic and electrical separation, but glad to hear that there were so many papers on flotation. This sounds like a great conference - I am going to keep my eyes peeled for any other conferences, particularly any that focus on Magnetic Filtration or Magnetic Separation.


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