A large portion of the energy consumed in copper concentrators is used to reduce the particle size of the feed by crushing and grinding. The cost of metal production could be reduced if low-grade particles of centimeter size were removed prior to further processing. Two copper sulfide ore samples (3 × 1 cm) from Arizona were analyzed by micro X-ray computed tomography (Micro-XCT) to determine the grade of copper sulfide in each particle. For copper ore sample A, a significant number of particles contained very low amounts of copper, while some particles had copper sulfide grains of millimeter size. Based on Micro-XCT, it was expected that 85 percent of copper for sample A could be recovered at 65 percent of mass rejection during preconcentration by sorting. However, in sample B (a different copper ore), distribution of copper sulfide was dispersed primarily in each ore particle, so for the particle size class of 3 × 1 cm, liberation of copper sulfide and gangue minerals was not significant. In view of the XCT results, dual-energy X-ray radiography was used as a basis for sorting. Pilot-scale X-ray sorting of sample A (10 × 1 cm) showed 31 percent rejection of a 0.08 percent Cu gangue product with a corresponding recovery of 90 percent copper.
Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-021-00520-w