Pneumatic flotation technology is reported to be delivering outstanding results in field trials involving platinum group metals (PGMs) and iron ore, and will soon be put to the test in gold, rare earth and graphite circuits in Southern Africa.
Gregory Niekerk, Business Development Manager at MBE Minerals, says that the company’s Pneuflot technology is nearing the completion of an 18-month test at a South African PGM operation. The pilot plant has already delivered a 5 % gain in recovery and yield.
A 3-cell Pneuflot configuration (4 m diameter capable of 460 m3/h) doing potash duty for SQM.
This follows a trial in Brazil that was undertaken by a prominent iron ore miner which reported ground-breaking gains using the Pneuflot technology.
“This customer undertook an industrial scale trial using a 4 m diameter cell. Our 40 m3 Pneuflot cell operated in parallel with a 125 m3 agitator circuit. Both circuits received 320 t/h of conditioned feed from a splitter box, and the results were overwhelmingly in favour of Pneuflot, prompting the world renowned Prof Antônio Eduardo C. Peres (PhD) of UFMG, Brazil to declare Pneuflot the future of iron ore flotation in his presentation at Flotation 15,” says Niekerk.
“The footprint of our 4 m diameter cell is 4,5 m2 and it can handle throughputs between 450 m3 and 850 m3 of slurry per hour.”
These trials also confirmed that MBE Minerals’ Pneuflot technology uses more than 35 % less electricity than competing technologies. There are also no mechanical moving parts in its cell or expensive auxiliaries such as compressors or blowers, resulting in reduced maintenance and operating costs, while its structural footprint is generally 50 to 60 %, smaller than those of agitator cells and column cells of similar capacities.
During the next six months, the pneumatic flotation technology will be subjected to more trials at potential customers’ operations, including another PGM circuit on the Western Limb as well as a gold circuit on the East Rand and a graphite operation in Zimbabwe. The Pneuflot laboratory unit stationed at Mintek will be equally busy on contractual work in rare earth minerals, potash, phosphates and graphite.
“Pneuflot is easily ‘plugged and played’ into any part of an existing circuit allowing comparative analysis to be undertaken by mines’ research and development (R&D) teams from float feed to final tails. We have completed a number of installations at the back end of existing float circuits around the world in the last two to three years, where the scavenging of an additional 3 to 5 % allowed the operators to enhance their revenue stream with project payback periods of less than six months,” says Niekerk.
MBE Minerals’ pilot plant comprises a one cubic metre feed tank and a 0,8 m diameter cell and is easily containerised for transportation. The pilot plant can be operated in batch and continuous mode and treats up to 10 m3/h of slurry.
The company’s industrial plants have diameters ranging from 0,8 m to 6 m with slurry feed rates of between 10 m³/h and 1 400 m³/h. The bigger cells are installed for a cost of less than 25 US cents per m³/h slurry feed. According to Multotec, this places the technology in the lowest capital cost quartile.