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New Flotigam 5806 collector developed for froth flotation of Brazilian phosphate rock

The Bottom Line

Drawing from 70 years of process optimization experience, Clariant’s Flotigam 5806 gives a major phosphate mine a collector alternative that…

  • Delivers mineral concentrate with a P2O5 grade of 35.8%
  • Improves P2O5 mass recovery
  • Is custom-made and designed to meet changing feed conditions
  • Lowers collector consumption

Objectives

A major mining operation in South America produces a purified phosphate rock for use as raw material in phosphoric acid production and a number of products for the fertilizer industry, including diammonium phosphate, monoammonium phosphate, simple superphosphate, triple superphosphate, thermophsphate and natural phosphate.

Working with an extremely complex phosphate igneous ore, Clariant develops a new anionic collector to improve the grade of a run of mine 12% P2O5 composition. To be considered as a supplemental supplier, Clariant must design a collector that produces a phosphate concentrate with P2O5 grade of approximately 35% and low silicon dioxide and calcium oxide contaminant grade.

Clariant also partners with the mine to provide a reagent solution that works in conjunction with other plant upgrades to reach a price-performance balance. In addition to the importance of collector price, the type of raw material, its toxicity, biodegradability and other factors figure into the equation.

Background

The phosphate igneous alkaline deposits of this mine in Brazil are very complex in terms of mineralogy. They consist of carbonated and silicate gangue – mainly calcite mineral mica and quartz respectively – both associated with the apatite. These deposits have a wide variety of ore typologies with different behaviors in the anionic flotation process.

Phosphate deposits associated with alkaline igneous rocks differ significantly from phosphate resources of sedimentary origin. They are characterized by low phosphorous grade, approximately 12% in this case, and complex mineralogy. In Brazil, the most abundant phosphate resource is associated with igneous rock, notably in the form of carbonatitic intrusion, which occurs in significant concentration in at least 12 alkaline-cabonatitc complexes.

Froth flotation is the main concentration process applied to phosphate ores from alkaline-carbonatitic complex, primarily because of their low grades and complex mineralogy. As a semi-soluble salt, apatite is very susceptible to slight variation in its surface properties, which affect its flotation behavior.

Prior to the change in ownership at the mine, flotation circuit technicians used only one collector supplier for the phosphate beneficiation process. Aware of Clariant’s vast experience in mineral froth and flotation, the new owners turned Clariant to develop a new collector, so the mine could have a second supplier.

Actions

Clariant technicians first conducted lab trials on ore samples from the mine. Due to the nature of the valuable minerals (low soluble salt) and the gangue minerals of this phosphate rock, Clariant determined it was necessary to develop a different fundamental approach for the collector.

The standard fatty acid anionic collector used at the mine is also commonly used around the world for semi-soluble salt minerals. While fatty acid and their salt (carboxylates) have collective properties, low cost and wide-spread availability, it offers low selectivity and requires the use of modifier agent to improve results.

Similarity between the surface chemistry of the apatite and some gangue minerals is one of the main factors of the selectivity losses in the flotation process, particularly for those minerals bearing alkaline-earth elements, such as carbonates, iron-magnesium silicates and barite. Additionally, the flotation process is inherently complex because variations in feed particle size, water quality, conditioning parameters, and flotation parameters influence performance.

Clariant technicians developed a new type of anionic collector designed to achieve the target P2O5 grade concentrated with a high recovery rate. After analyzing lab trial results, the technicians determined that Flotigam 5806 exhibited the best characteristics to selectively float the apatite, while leaving the gangue minerals at the bottom of flotation cell.

Flotigam 5806 then went through pilot trials at the mine. The mine’s engineers concluded that Clariant’s new collector met established targets with the added benefit of lower collector consumption than the standard collector.

Results

Proven by Clariant in-lab and mine pilot plant trials, the new Flotigam 5806 offers this phosphate mining operation…

  • A second collector that exhibits performance characteristics similar to the standard collector
  • High P2O5 recovery rates in excess of 90%
  • A P2O5 concentrate of 35.8%
  • 10% lower collector consumption than the standard collector
  • Low contaminant grade for SiO2, Fe2O3, Al2O3, MgO and CaO