January 2019
Volume 71    Issue 1

Flotation in seawater

Laskowski, J.S.; Castro, S,; Gutierrez, L.

ABSTRACT:

Full-text paper:
Laskowski, J.S., Castro, S. & Gutierrez, L. Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (2019) 36: 89. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42461-018-0018-6

Water is a medium in which flotation takes place, and flotation efficiency is highly dependent on water quality. Of the total water resources on Earth, less than 2.5 percent is fresh water. This water is used in agriculture, by households and by industry. Among the industrial users of fresh water, the mining industry occupies an important position. Furthermore, mining operations are often located in arid areas with very limited access to fresh water. The demand for and shortage of water in these parts of the world, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, makes the use of seawater by the mining industry the only sustainable solution. 

   As water circuits in flotation plants are now closed and process water is reused, the process  water — even if a plant is supplied with fresh water — becomes finally a highly concentrated electrolyte solution. If we simplify and treat seawater as 0.6 M sodium chloride (NaCl) solution that also contains 1.3 g/L of magnesium ions (Mg2+) and 0.4 g/L of calcium ions (Ca2+), then these two cases are not that different. The general question that arises is then how the ionic strength of the process water affects flotation. The progress that has been made in this area is reviewed in the paper, and based on this information an attempt is being made at classifying the flotation operations carried out in highly concentrated electrolyte process waters.

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