An improvement on selective separation by applying ultrasound to rougher and re-cleaner stages of copper flotation
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It has been known that the power ultrasound is used as a pretreatment and rarely applied as a simultaneous method to improve grade and recovery during froth flotation processes. This work aimed at investigating the impact of simultaneously used ultrasonic waves under variant operating configurations on the flotation of representative porphyry copper ore during rougher and re-cleaner stages. For this purpose, four different operating outlines were examined as (I) conventional flotation, (II) homogenizer, (III) ultrasonic bath, and (IV) combination of a homogenizer and an ultrasonic bath. The ultrasonic vibration was generated by the homogenizer (21 kHz, 1 kW) in the froth zone and ultrasonic bath (35 kHz, 0.3 kW) in the bulk zone. The rougher and re-cleaner flotation experiments were conducted using Denver-type mechanically agitated cells with 4.2 and 1 L capacities, respectively. The results showed that using the homogenizer (at 0.4 kW) slightly affected the selectivity separation index of chalcopyrite and pyrite, although it positively increased the grade of chalcopyrite from 21.5% to 25.7%. The ultrasonic-assisted flotation experiments with the ultrasonic bath and its combination with the homogenizer (0.4 kW) (i.e., configurations III and IV) led to an increase of approximately 16.1% and 26.9% in the chalcopyrite selectivity index compared to the conventional flotation, respectively. At the cleaning stage, a lower grade of aluminum silicate-based minerals was obtained desirably in every ultrasonic-treated configuration, which was supported with the water recoveries. Finally, applying the homogenizer and its combination with the ultrasonic bath were recommended for re-cleaner and rougher stages, respectively. Further fundamental and practical knowledge gaps required to be studied were highlighted.