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Water in Mining 2006

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Water in Mining 2006

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A Systematic Approach to Water Quality Management in the Minerals Processing Industry

Mining companies often view water quality as an environmental issue. The importance of water quality as a production related issue in mineral beneficiation is greatly underestimated at many mineral processing operations. While most mine sites have comprehensive water balance data for water quantity, the information regarding the quality of water supplies available on site is limited, inadequate or non-existent. The seasonal variations in process water quality and changes in the composition of various water streams are not known. Despite the fact that water represents about 80 to 90 per cent of the volume of mineral pulp processed in a flotation plant, the influence of process water composition on flotation performance is often poorly understood._x000D_
The process water used at mineral processing operations is made up from a number of available water sources, which can be classified as recycled water streams or make-up waters. The recycled water streams are commonly the tailings and concentrate thickener overflows, filtrate from the concentrate filtration plant and tailings dam return water. Make-up waters can originate from a variety of sources: surface waters (rivers, lakes, reservoirs, dams), groundwater (wells and springs), mains water (potable water), treated and untreated sewage waters and industrial effluents._x000D_
Mineral processing plants are increasingly recycling water to reduce demand for fresh water and minimise the discharge of wastewater to the environment. However, increasing water recycling can have adverse effects on process water quality and ultimately on the performance of mineral separation processes. The main reasons for reduced plant performance due to water recycling are the accumulation of organic and inorganic compounds in the process water and increased microbiological activities. Other detrimental effects of water recycling can be increased reagent consumption and inefficient dewatering of tailings and concentrates. Recycling of water also tends to accumulate very fine suspended particles. Excessive amounts of slimes in the process water can also have an adverse effect on mineral beneficiation processes._x000D_
The main constituents of process water are dissolved gases (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide), colloidal and suspended solids of inorganic and organic nature (including micro-organisms: dead or alive), dissolved organics (natural organic matter, residual reagents, reaction and decomposition by-products of chemical reagents, impurities in the reagents and metabolites originating from microbiological activities) and inorganic compounds (acids, alkalis, inorganic salts, metal ions, anions and heavy metals). Inputs to the chemical composition of process waters are: dissolution of soluble mineral phases present in the ore, surface oxidation followed by dissolution of mineral particles during grinding and mineral processing, the chemical composition of various make-up waters and recycled water streams, and reagent additions during mineral processing._x000D_
The beneficial or detrimental impact of process water quality on flotation performance can be attributed to a number of subprocesses: adsorption and/or precipitation of inorganic and organic species present in the process water onto the surface of mineral particles, chemical reactions between process water constituents and the chemical species present on the surface of mineral particles and interactions between the chemical and microbiological species present in the process water and the various reagent species added in solution during mineral processing. Dissolved chemical species such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, sulfates, phosphates and carbonates can have a strong effect on the electrokinetic properties of oxide and sulfide minerals, at certain pH ranges. Several reactions can occur at the solid-liquid interface that can play an important role in determining surface adsorption of reagents. Solid-liquid interfacial properties of mineral particles can be significantly affected by the conformation of adsorbed and precipitated reagent layers, which in turn are determined by solution chemistry. The chemical and microbiological constituents of process water can have a significant effect on liquid-gas interfacial properties and have a strong influence on froth height, strength and stability during flotation._x000D_
Water chemistry can play an important role in determining the interactions between minerals present in the ore and the chemical reagents added in the mineral processing plant by altering the reagent-solution and mineral-solution equilibria. These interactions can include dissolution, micellisation and precipitation of reagents, dissolution of minerals contained in the ore followed by hydrolysis, complexation, adsorption and precipitation of dissolved chemical species and reactions between dissolved ions and various reagent species present in solution. All of the above mentioned subprocesses can ultimately have a significant effect on the efficiency of mineral processing operations._x000D_
In this presentation, a systematic approach for assessing the composition of water supplies available at the mine sites and for investigating the influence of process water quality on the efficiency of mineral processing operations will be discussed. The consequences of mixing different quality water streams to produce the required volumes of process water for some flotation plants will be highlighted. To substantiate the water quality issues described in this paper some examples are given from a metalliferous processing perspective. However, the topics described in the paper are not only relevant to metalliferous processing but to all other type of mineral processing operations as well. In fact the principles described in this paper have also been successfully applied to the coal flotation industry._x000D_
FORMAL CITATION:Levay, G and Schumann, R, 2006._x000D_
A systematic approach to water quality management in the minerals processing industry, in Proceedings Water in Mining 2006, pp 277-288 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).
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  • Published: 2005
  • PDF Size: 0.172 Mb.
  • Unique ID: P200610037

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