Mining operations use a combination of metallurgical processes for mineral extraction. This often involves flotation to produce a mineral concentrate followed by smelting or leaching to recover the final product(s). Knowing the quantitative mineralogy at each of these stages is important to optimizing the effective and efficient recovery of a valuable mineral deposit. Quantitative mineralogy enables more productive process strategies (e.g. blending) and ongoing process optimization. Metallurgists and geologists typically use chemical assay data to estimate quantitative mineralogy, but due to inherent mineralogical complexity, these estimates can be misleading. Olympus portable X-ray diffraction (pXRD) analyzers can provide the metallurgist with reliable quantitative mineralogy onsite, in near real-time, that would otherwise take days or weeks to obtain.
Flotation is a common process used to concentrate a variety of base and precious metal ores. During flotation, the ore is treated with reagents (chemicals) to encourage the valuable sulfide minerals to float and suppress the non-valuable minerals. Unfortunately, not all of the economic elements are contained within sulfide minerals (e.g. they may exist in oxides) and non-valuable gangue minerals can also float (e.g. talc and clays), contaminating and lowering the concentrate quality.
Using Olympus pXRD systems, metallurgists, geologists, and mining engineers can:
Metals cannot be leached from all ore-bearing minerals, and ore minerals that can be leached have different leaching potential/leaching rates. In addition, gangue minerals also consume acid during the leaching process. Olympus pXRD can be effectively utilized to:
The mineralogical composition of concentrates has a large impact on subsequent pyrometallurgical processes that can involve smelting and or roasting the mineral concentrate product. Quantitative mineralogy obtained from Olympus pXRD analyzers enables metallurgists to:
Quantifying minerals that are problematic for metallurgical processes can be far more important than recognizing problematic minerals. These problematic gangue minerals often have minimal or manageable adverse effects at or below certain thresholds (or tipping points, Figure 3). For this reason, it is important for the metallurgist to have ready access to accurate quantitative mineralogical data (Figures 4 and 5) so they can optimize their process accordingly or develop more appropriate blending strategies.
The benefits of Olympus’ innovative pXRD analyzers include: