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Iron ore flotation with environmentally friendly reagents

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2014, Vol. 31, No. 2, pp. 95-102

Sandvik, K.L.; Larsen, E.


The Sydvaranger magnetite mine closed in 1996 due to low iron ore prices and was reopened in 2009. The flowsheet has remained more or less as in the old plant, based upon two grinding steps followed by magnetic separation. The magnetite is free of harmful elements and should be attractive on the high quality market. This requires a concentrate containing less than 2% SiO2, which previously was achieved by amine flotation. Amine was preferred because it could be used with sea water. The use of amine is now restricted by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency. Therefore, testwork to replace cationic with anionic flotation was done. Activation of quartz with Ca or Mg ions prior to anionic flotation was shown by research from 1960 to 1980 to be effective under laboratory conditions. The old research results have been followed up in order to make a commercial process for Sydvaranger. Calcium activation works excellently with all Sydvaranger ores, including the ones containing amphibole minerals, but Ca activation requires the high and not environmentally friendly pH of 12.4. Magnesium activation at pH 10.5 is a little more challenging, because the maximum concentration of MgOH+ is about 100 times lower than that of CaOH+. Fortunately, the major impurity in the main Bjornevatn orebody is quartz, which responds well to Mg activation. The process does not appear to depend much upon water quality, as the silicates may already be activated during grinding and magnetic separation in recycled water. The new process is environmentally friendly, as only well-known household reagents are used; oleic acid or tall oil, dextrin, sodium hydroxide and magnesium chloride at pH 10.5.