The Asia Miner

JUL-SEP 2019

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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the asia miner • volume 16 • issue 3 7 LEADING DEVELOPMENTS Taking the raw material fluorite as their example, researchers at Helmholtz Insঞtute Freiberg for Resource Technology (HIF) have shown how water usage can be opঞmised. They have developed a new procedure that extends the simulaঞon of the beneficiaঞon process, indicaঞng the circumstances in which it makes sense for water to be recycled without incurring losses during ore enrichment. The consumpঞon of fresh water can thereby be significantly reduced. HIF argues that this not only benefits the environment but also the mining companies by making the extracঞon of raw materials more efficient. Found in smartphones, modern cars, climate-friendly photovoltaic units and used in many other industries, hi- tech materials have become an indispensable consঞtuent of everyday life. Although recycling can parঞally cover the demand for raw materials, most are sঞll sourced from mining. The environmental impacts are well known. Mining also requires vast quanঞঞes of water and produces correspondingly large volumes of wastewater. Working in partnership with colleagues in Finland, a team of researchers at HIF led by process engineer Bruno Michaux has developed a method of making water usage in the processing of mineral raw materials more sustainable. Taking the mineral fluorite as an example, they have shown how the water consumpঞon can significantly be reduced by the aid of process simulaঞon. Fluorite – also known in mineralogy as fluorspar and by its chemical name of calcium fluoride – is an important raw material for industry. It is used, for example, in the smelঞng of iron, in aluminium extracঞon and in the chemical sector as a raw material for producing fluorine and hydrofluoric acid. Probably the best-known product of fluorine chemistry is PTFE, a fluoropolymer which is sold in membrane form under the trade names Teflon and Gore-Tex. ORE BENEFICIATION AS A WATER GUZZLER "The extracঞon of fluorite consumes a lot of water," explains Bruno Michaux. "Depending on the local climate, but even more so on the design of the mineral beneficiaঞon plant, it can be up to 4,000 litres per tonne of ore." There is obviously nothing that the HIF researchers can do about the weather, but they can certainly contribute to opঞmising the processing itself. In this step of the process, waste rock is separated from the extracted ore in order to raise the fluorite content from below 50 per cent to around the 98 per cent mark. To accomplish this, the engineers apply the flotaঞon process. In simple terms, the ore is ground and mixed with plenty of water; then various chemicals are added to the mixture to Digitisation in beneficiation technology helping reduce water consumption Image courtesy ©HZDR

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