Mineral Resource Recovery Programs: Fundamental and Applied Research, New Reagents and New Technology

Sustainability in the mineral industry is contingent upon converting resources to reserves. Overall, this is dictated by the ability to economically process difficult-to-treat ore bodies of base and precious metals such as Cu, Ni, Co, Zn, Au, and Platinum group metals.

While there are several complex factors which affect the value mineral separations from these ores, the two important factors that adversely affect the value of mineral recovery are slurry rheology and slime coating. The former is associated with the type and nature of the minerals and their morphologies, while the latter is related to the surface chemistry and electrostatic effects.

Given Columbia’s IUCRC expertise in fine particle processing and surface chemistry as well as Cytec Industries Inc’ leadership in reagent technology for mineral separations, new approaches and methodologies are being used to address these challenges and to develop novel reagents. Preliminary results have showed considerable improvements in the yield of value minerals, some of which are of strategic importance.

Illustration of complex mineral flotation process

Illustration of complex mineral flotation process

Furthermore, mineral morphology and its effects will also be studied. Green chemistry and greener processing methods will be attempted to alleviate environmental concerns. A fundamental understanding of complex mineral-reagent interactions on micro and nano scales will be developed through this collaborative research, thus helping mineral companies, such as Vale Inco and Newmont to make value added products. This program provides a fine example of how industry and university can collaborate to to solve major problems in the industry and simultaneously achieve educational and scientific goals.