March 2019
Volume 71    Issue 3

On the management of gangue minerals in the flotation of platinum group minerals

O’Connor, Cyril; Wiese, Jenny; Corin, Kirsten; McFadzean, Belinda


Full-text paper:
O’Connor, C., Wiese, J., Corin, K. et al. Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2019) 36: 55.

As orebodies being mined globally are of ever-decreasing grades, the focus on the concentration process has moved increasingly to the challenges faced in management of the gangue minerals. This is especially so in the flotation of platinum group minerals (PGMs), where head grades are typically in the region of 4–7 g/t. Hence, in PGM operations, a typical recovery of about 80 percent requires depressing about 85 percent of the gangue minerals. In a flotation cell the main control parameters are reagent type and dosage, froth depth and air addition rate. This paper reviews research projects carried out over an extended period aimed at optimizing the depression of gangue minerals: both those that are naturally floatable and those, such as chromite, that are entrained.  This has involved comparing the two major depressants used in the industry — guar and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) — in the depression of the relevant gangue minerals, as well as investigating their consequent effect on the behavior of the froth phase. Because most PGM flotation plants treat the ore as if all the PGMs are associated with sulfides, copper sulfate is widely used as an activator, but this can also lead to inadvertent activation of gangue minerals. Finally, chromite levels must be kept below 3–5 percent to avoid any negative effects on smelter performance, and thus it is important to reduce chromite recovery which mainly occurs due to entrainment through, for example, froth depth control.   


Follow these easy steps if you are an SME member:
  • Go to . Sign in with your email address and password.
  • Hover your mouse over “Publications and Resources” in the top banner. Click on “Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (MME) Journal” in the pull-down menu.
  • Scroll down and click on the “Read the MME Journal Online” button, which will take you to the Springer site as an SME member who is eligible for free access. (To see published papers on the Springer site, click on “Browse Volumes & Issues” in the blue banner.)
If you are not an SME member, go to for paid access. Or join SME at