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Magnesium oxide suppression during nickel flotation

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2015, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 170-175

Moore, L.R.; Macy, P.; Casagrande, R.; Sessoms, J.


A South American nickel mine has been producing a nickel concentrate that also contains copper and iron (15 percent nickel, 5 percent copper, 28 percent iron) for the end use of stainless steel production. A critical specification for the quality of the steel is the iron to magnesium oxide ratio (Fe:MgO), with a ratio of below 3.5:1 having a substantial impact on the nickel value. This nickel concentrate producer historically mined the sulfur-rich mineral pyroxenite but had been forced to move to a magnesium oxide/silicate (MgO/SiO4)-rich mineral harzburgite, resulting in nickel recovery being reduced to around 50 percent to maintain the required Fe:MgO ratio. In this study, ore mineralogy, water chemistry and the chemistries associated with the flotation process were evaluated in an effort to increase nickel recovery while maintaining the Fe:MgO ratio according to specification. New chemistry was introduced with the specific goal of complexing with the MgO and retarding its interaction with the bubble flow in the flotation process.