Researchers from Aalto University in Finland have found a new environmentally-friendly method for increasing mineral recovery in minerals processing.
The researchers created a cellulose-based compound that improves mineral separation processes without using additional chemicals.
The cellulose-based compound can increase the amount of minerals recovering while speeding up the floatation process.
Aalto University professor Rodrigo Serna said oil-based floatation chemicals used in froth flotation have remained unchanged for decades.
“We wanted to find more sustainable alternatives to these chemicals, so we started carefully exploring cellulose derivatives with properties considered suitable for frothers,” he said.
“It was quite surprising when, already in the first laboratory experiments, the new compound started to produce more minerals than traditional methods.”
The compound also has the benefits of being renewable, biodegradable and non-toxic.
According to the researchers, it can work in a wider range of pH conditions, as compared to state-of-the-art frothers currently used.
The researchers also found that it can reduce the need for additional chemicals when tested on zinc.
The compound has been proposed under a patent named CellFroth, with the researchers looking to commercialise the product.
The researchers are expecting the compound to improve production capacity in mineral processing plants while preventing additional chemical usage.
“The mining industry is under great pressure to develop more environmentally friendly practices. At the same time, they need to improve their productivity as the need for raw materials increases and the mineral reserves become depleted. These don’t have to conflict with each other,” Serna said.
It is also capable of handling waste streams with low contents of valuable minerals, which is valuable to depleting mineral resources which will require the processing of low-quality ores.