Gravity-based pre-concentration strategies for complex rare earth ore containing niobium and zirconium
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Resources and Civil Engineering, Northeastern University
CNNC Beijing Research Institute of Chemical Engineering and Metallurgy
Department of Mining Engineering, Middle East Technical University
Zhengzhou University
Publication date: 2024-02-02
Physicochem. Probl. Miner. Process. 2024;60(1):183609
The Balzhe rare earth mine, renowned for its rich reservoirs of niobium, zirconium, and rare earth elements, poses a unique challenge due to its diverse and interbedded mineral composition. Despite the abundance of these elements, their valuable grade remains notably low, falling short of economic thresholds. To this end, pre-concentration of valuable minerals to discard gangue minerals before flotation would be an economical option. In response, this study delves into the feasibility of gravity-induced pre-concentration, aiming to segregate valuable minerals from gangue for subsequent flotation processes. Conducting float-and-sink tests on varied particle sizes (-2+0.5 mm, -0.5+0.074 mm, and -0.074+0.02 mm) within heavy liquids of specific gravities (ranging from 2.55 to 2.85), the study reveals the effectiveness of gravity separation. Notably, particles sized -2+0.5 mm and -0.074+0.02 mm demonstrated superior separation performance over the -0.5+0.074 mm fraction. Comparative analysis of diverse gravity separation equipment unveiled compelling results. The dense medium cyclone separator showcased impressive recovery rates and high-grade concentrates of Nb2O5, ZrO2, and total rare earth oxides (TREO) at 0.34%, 8.20%, and 0.41%, respectively, surpassing the sand table's performance for -2+0.5 mm particles. Conversely, for -0.5+0.074 mm particles, the shaking table exhibited optimal separation efficiency, yielding grades of Nb2O5, ZrO2, and TREO at 0.37%, 4.08%, and 0.44%, with substantial recovery values. Ultimately, the Knelson centrifugal separator proved most effective for -0.074+0.02 mm particles, yielding notable grades and recoveries of Nb2O5, ZrO2, and TREO. This study underscores the promising potential of gravity-induced pre-concentration techniques for enhancing the recovery of valuable elements from the complex Balzhe rare earth ore, offering critical insights into optimizing mineral extraction processes.
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