Flotation of Yxsjöberg historical tungsten ore tailings
Sammanfattning: Tailings dams, due to their sheer size and metal content, pose safety and environmental hazards. The Småltjarnen repository, which hosts material from the largest known tungsten mineralization in Sweden named the Yxsjöberg deposit, is estimated to contain 2.2 million tons of material from previous operations when recovery rates of scheelite, chalcopyrite, and fluorite were low. The repository is also observed to contain at least four of the listed critical raw materials by the European Commission in 2017, namely tungsten, fluorite, beryllium, and bismuth. The amenability of this tailings repository as secondary sources for valuable minerals and metals supports the Raw Material Initiative and the drive of the European Union towards a more circular economy. This masters thesis is part of the REMinE (Improve Resource Efficiency and Minimize Environmental Footprint) project that aims to evaluate the amenability of historical mining waste for re-processing from the technical, economical, and environmental perspectives. The study focuses on work package 3 of the project: Identification of new processing methods for mine waste. Previous work on this repository includes geochemical characterization and physical separation through magnetic and gravity separation tests. Since scheelite, the main mineral of the deposit, is commonly recovered through combinations of gravity separation and flotation methods, it is imperative to investigate the response of the material to flotation tests. Further characterization work and flotation tests were rendered on samples from sampling location 6 (60°02'33.6"N 14°46'30.8"E). Previous work was done on samples from and near sampling location 1, which is southwest from location 6. Characterization methods performed on the material included elemental analysis through ICP-SFMS, X-ray diffraction measurements, and mineral liberation analysis as well as physical characterization through particle size distribution analysis and determination of specific gravity. Based on MLA, the material from the main samples showed good liberation by free surface which is important for flotation processes. Mineral association also showed low percentages between scheelite and other Ca-bearing minerals which is a main concern for scheelite flotation. Comparison of characterization work between the two sampling locations allows information on the repository at a larger scope. The common scheelite flotation collector sodium oleate, as well as novel formulations Atrac 2600 and Berol 8313 from Nouryon were tested in combination with the depressant sodium silicate. Based on mass recovery, grade and recovery, selectivity, required dosage, and the degree to which it is environmentally safe, Atrac 2600 at 400 g/t is deemed to produce the most positive results. Based on characterization of the material and flotation tests, an estimated 222,200 tons of -75 µm can go directly into the flotation circuit with an average grade of 0.2768% WO3 and 0.195% Cu. Approximately 15,000 tons at 0.50% WO3 and 14,000 tons at 0.224% Cu can be recovered at a single flotation. Rough mass balance of the process flowsheet indicates a Cu concentrate at 30% Cu will produce 880.50 tons, while a saleable scheelite concentrate at 65% WO3 will yield 672.16 tons from only the original -75 µm fraction of the material. Including the gravity separation tails intended to join the flotation circuit after grinding, an estimated 1,205.54 tons of scheelite at 65% WO3 and 1.860.20 tons of 30% Cu concentrate can be produced. Aside from this, the gravity separation circuit will still be able to yield 188,000 tons of 0.92% WO3 concentrate, which can be further studied if it can be beneficiated to a saleable product. Value estimation of the products for the recommended flowsheet indicate a total of US$ 17 million for the WO3 and Cu concentrates to be produced from the readily amenable -75 µm fraction to be treated directly by flotation. Inclusion of the gravity separation tails mass into the flotation feed yields a value estimated at US$32 million.
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