Monday, 30 January 2017
In the posting of 14 May 2010 I raised the question of whether flotation columns ever realised their potential. The responses suggested that perhaps they didn't, apart from their use as cleaners, the emphasis now, particularly in base metal operations, being more on extremely large, energy efficient, mechanical cells.
A paper published this month in Minerals Engineering examines this question in depth. Greg Harbort and Danica Clarke have reviewed the fluctuations in the popularity and usage of flotation columns.
They conclude that since 1961 column flotation has gone through three distinct rises and falls in popularity. These fluctuations have largely been driven by commodity prices. Within these primary waves there are secondary fluctuations in popularity driven by the rise and fall of individual flotation column manufacturers, the necessity for circuit refurbishment, commodity specific requirements and the effect of capacity saturation, both within commodities and individual countries.
Areas where flotation columns have achieved wide popularity include the Australian, Chinese and USA coal industry, the phosphate industry in the USA and Brazil, and the iron ore industry in Brazil. Within the base metals industry flotation columns are generally accepted in the smaller capacity cleaner roles worldwide.
This is an excellent overview, providing an analysis of over 4000 installed flotation columns, contained in the Amec Foster Wheeler flotation database. Changing trends in column flotation use by type, commodity and geographical region are reviewed. The reasons for the numerous rises and falls in column flotation use are also discussed.
To supplement this fine review, I would appreciate the views of operators who are, or who have been, involved in column flotation applications.