FLOTATION OF SPODUMENE-BERYL ORES

The U . S . Bureau of Mines has been experimenting with flotation processes
to separate the spodumene-beryl o r e s mined at Kings Mountain, N . C . The
success to date a s well a s the present status of the process i s discussed.
Further experimentation i s underway and studies will be made on the milling
c o s t s involved i n the flotation process.

by James S. Browning

T

he pegmatites of the Kings Mountain-Lincolnton,
clays also contained s m a l l amounts of lithia. This
N.C., a r e a constitute the largest known domestic
i s typical of pegmatites in the Kings Mountain a r e a .
r e s e r v e of beryl and spodumene. The reserve i s e s timated to contain 90 million tons of pegmatic mateLABORATORY TESTS
r i a l with 1,280,000 tons of recoverable Li,O (lithia) as
In the past, a vigorous chemical treatment of the
spodurnene.' The pegmatites also contain 0.4 to 0.5
spodumene
surfaces with acid o r caustic soda has
pct beryl disseminated throughout the orebodies. The
been
considered
essential for satisfactory selective
pegmatites may contain a potential r e s e r v e of 240,flotation
of
the
spodumene
from the other minerals
000 tons beryl, equivalent to approximately 34,000
in pegmatites. Many tests were made during this intons of BeO.
vestigation to determine if chemical treatment of
Different flotation methods for separating beryl
the spodumene could be eliminated in favor of a r e from feldspar o r quartz, o r both, have been develagent combination that would depress the other minoped by various investigators .2-7 On the other hand,
e r a l s while selectively floating the spodumene. A
published information is limited on concentration of
simple
reagent combination and process was develspodumene-beryl ores. A s the response of beryl and
oped
that
gave better spodumene recovery and grade
spodumene to flotation is essentially the same, a
of
concentrate
than the more elaborate acid o r caussuccessful separation of the two minerals depends
tic treatment methods previously used.
upon use of a selective depressant o r a selective
The finely ground o r e pulps were conditioned with
collector for one of the minerals.
either
an ammonium, alkali, o r alkaline earth lignin
Several years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Mines, r e sulfonate
and sodium fluoride, and the spodumene
cognizing the need for developing a large domestic
supply of strategic beryl, undertook studies to devel- was floated and cleaned using oleic acid a s the collector. The spodumene tailing was deslimed, conop improved methods of recovering this mineral.
ditioned
with sulfuric acid and coco amine acetate,
Because of the low beryl content of the pegmatites,
and
floated
to reject mica. The mica tailing was
economic production of the beryl entails its recovthickened and conditioned with hydrofluoric acid,
ery a s a byproduct of spodumene flotation. Thus,
then washed to remove the acid. The washed pulp
the development of procedures that would provide
was conditioned with sodium hydroxide for pH confor maximum recoveries of the spodumene, as well
trol,
and the beryl was floated and cleaned with oleic
as the beryl, was a primary objective of the studies.
Tests were made on run-of-mine o r e and spodumene acid a s the collector. Table I1 summarizes the r e flotation tailing from the Foote Mineral Co.'s spodu- sults of the laboratory test work.
About 77 pct of the spodumene and 75 pct of the
mene concentrator a t Kings Mountain (Fig. 1). Petberyl
were recovered from the pegmatitic material.
rographic analyses of the o r e and flotation tailing
The spodumene concentrate assayed 6.1 pct Li20
a r e given in Table I.
and 0.01 pct BeO, and the beryl product assayed 3.0
Detailed analyses and examinations of the o r e and
pct
Li20 and 1.57 pct BeO. Similar results were obtailings revealed that the beryllium was present in
the form of a low-alkali beryl. The crystals were
small, rarely larger than 14-mesh diam, and were
Table I. Petrographic Analysis of Ore and Flotation
clear and colorless.
Toiling From Foote Mineral Co.
About 10 pct of the L i 2 0 content of the o r e was
Analysis, P c t
-present in the mica and feldspar components of the
Ore
Tailing
Mineral
pegmatite. In some weathered o r e s the associated

J . S. BROWNING i s Supervising Metallurgist, Tuscaloosa
Research Center, Bureau of Mines, U.S. Dept. o f the Interior,
University Station, Ala. TP 61820. St. Louis Meeting, February 1961. Also published i n M I N I N G ENGINEERING, July
1961, pp. 706708. Discussion of this paper, submitted i n duplicate prior to July 1, 1962, w i l l appear in AlME Transactions (Mining), 1962, Vol. 223.

Spodumene
Beryl
Mica
Quartz
Feldspar
Other
Composite

4 3.57 0.0 0. The classifier overflow pulp was fed to a hydroseparator to remove clay and thicken the pulp to 40 to 45 pct solids.0 0.2 14.9 71.9 1. Pct Lip0 Be0 Mica Lip0 Be0 Mica Spodumene concentrate Mica concentrate Beryl concentrate Beryl middling Tailing Composite 19.01 1. P c t Product Weight.0 Pounds per ton of ore Spodumene Conditioner 1st Lignin sulfonate Sodium fluoride Oleic acid Sulfuric acid Coco amine acetate Hydrofluoric acid Sodium hydroxide Conditioning time. two from other deposits in North Carolina.0 2.3 14.8 6.7 100..0 3.0 100. Quebec.1 9. Mica. C .7 0.0 1. Fig.96 Table II.0 . and Beryl Analysis. The hydroseparator underflow was conditioned with 2 lb of sodium fluoride and l2 lb of lignin sulfonate per ton of ore. The o r e was crushed to -1/4 in. S.0 6.05 0.9 3.51 0.5 2.4 94. Laboratory Flotation of Spodumene.28 0.2 6.9 5.6 4.01 0.3 74. P c t Distribution.01 0. min Pulp pH 2nd Mica Cleaner 1st 2nd Conditioner 3rd 1st 2nd Beryl Cleaner 1st Conditioner 1st 2nd Cleaner 1st 2nd . where 0. where USBM i s conducting research on flotation of spodumene-beryl ores. tained in tests of four other pegmatites.5 0. I-Concentrator at Kings Mountain.0 0.2 89. N .3 0. PILOT PLANT TESTS Spodumene Flotation: The laboratory investigation was promising enough to warrant further testing of the spodumene flotation step of the process in a small continuous flotation pilot plant with a capacity of about 150 lb of dry feed per hour.6 100..6 0.and another from Val d'Or.4 77.3 1..- s. The dischMge from the f i r s t conditioner flowed to a second conditioner. one from Hill City..1 0.2 100.D. then wet ground continuously in a rod mill operating in closed circuit with a rake classifier to overflow -48-mesh material.

4 7.89 0.4 0. containing about 150 lb of dry feed per hour.9 6.45 pct LizO. The tailing from the rougher cells flowed to a single cell.5 5.24 1. The pH of the pulp was 7. The bulk beryl-spodumene concentrate was conditioned with 10 lb of sulfuric acid per ton of dry feed to remove the fatty acid collector from the mineral surfaces.6 100.33 0.9 lb of sodium silicate.91.6 16. Spodumene. for recovery of the bulk beryl-spodumene concentrate is shown in Fig. Pct Mica concentrate 13. Pct Liz0 Be0 Mica Li10 Be0 Mica 1.2 88. representing a spodumene recovery of 88.5 pct feldspar. The froth from this unit was recycled through the last rougher cell.25 pct B e 0 and 4.05 83.04 19. A simplified flowsheet L F-r Conditioner Sodium hydroxide Oleic acid -1 Overflow to waste i r I Flototion cells I LTailing I-stage scavenging I Flotation cells 3-stage cleaning Beryl-spodumene concentrate Fig. The rougher concentrate flowed to a bank of flotation cells for three-stage cleaning.7 Beryl concentrate 13.6 3. The pulp was floated to produce a rougher concentrate which was then triple-cleaned.0 100. 0. About 11 pct of the lithia in the o r e was not present as spodumene but was associated with the mica. Batch Treatment: Because of the difficulty of producing enough bulk spodumene-beryl concentrate from the low-grade tailings for further continuous cleaning tests. and 5.0 3. Pct Product Spodumene concentrate Flotation tailing Hydro-separator overflow Composite Distribution. The middling product was returned countercurrently to the rougher cells.7 2.0 100.9 lb of oleic acid per ton of dry solids. The concentrate contained 83 pct spodumene by petrographic analysis.1 89.4 4.3 lb of sodium hydroxide. Pct Liz0 Be0 Spodumene 20.00 0.'s spodumene concentrator. As the plant tailing contained unrecovered spodumene.44 0.5 83. The cleaner concentrate assayed 6. The pulp then was floated to recover a spodumene concentrate.trace .8.7 76.0 100.5 pct quartz.1 Spodumene concentrate 55.01 0.1 3. 2-Flowsheet f o r USBM process to recover beryl-spodumene concentrates. Rather than treat the crude o r e to remove the spodumene before the beryl flotation.60 0.76 0. Summarized Results of o Smoll-Stole Continuous Spodumene Flotation Test Analysis. 2) flotation of the spodumene .1 5. The pulp was conditioned with 2 lb of hydrofluoric acid per ton of dry feed for 5 min at a pH of 3.2 Tailing 18. Pct Weight.4 5.Plant toiling 7t - Toble I l l .0 100. to remove additional spodumene from the floating tailing.10 13. tests were made of spodumene tailings being produced at Foote Co.5 pct. as follows: 1) rejection of the mica.5 pct mica. The beryl concentrate assayed 1.1 2.3 94. A part of the concentrator tailing.40 1.8 11.0 Hydrofluoric acid Sond pump Liz0 Be0 Spodumane 75.0 pct LizO and accounted for a Liz recovery of 75.2 6. operated as a scavenger.5 19.2 Conditioner 7.0 3.7 .0 . 2. 0 I Sodium silicate lb of oleic acid per ton of o r e was added as the spodumene collector.57 6.0 Distribdtion. 10. Pct Product Weight. and then they were conditioned with 0.0 2. feldspar.- Spiral classifier - 1. and Beryl From Bulk Concentrate Analysis. was diverted to the pilot plant. After washing the pulp to remove Toble IV.03 5. The washed sands were admixed with water to produce a pulp containing about 30 pct solids in the slurry. the recovery of enriched beryl and spodumene products was carried out by batch retreatment consisting of three stages.0 - Composite 100. and 3) flotation of the beryl.62 0.8 pct. about 87 pct of the beryllium and 66 pct of the lithia was recovered. This method was attractive because it would enable recovery of additional spodumene from the pegmatite to pay part of the re-treatment cost. and clay. and 0. The conditioned pulp was then washed in a spiral classifier to give a sand product for flotation and remove the acid from the pulp.37 2. Results of the continuous test a r e summarized in Table 111.0 - 1 1.1 100. Beryl Flotation: Small-scale continuous tests were also made to substantiate the laboratory test results obtained on beryl flotation.28 94.3.10 0. The bulk concentrate also contained about 12.1 100. the purpose of the tests was to recover the beryl and spodumene together as a bulk concentrate that could be re-treated to produce enriched beryl and spodumene products.5 71. Flotation of Mica.

46 PP. Gibbs: Beneficiation of Western Beryl Ores. 1948. o Investigations 5339. Bureau of Mines Rept. 1952. 'S. M. 1947.8 lb of oleic acid per ton of feed. Lamb: Beneficiation of New England Beryllium Ores. 19 pp. O'Meara: Flotatian of Beryllium Ores. S.57 pct LizO. accounting for a beryl recovery of 76 pct. L . 9 pp. 18 pp. 325-350. . and the product was conditioned with 0. Bureau of Mines R e p t .3 lb of sodium hydroxide and 0. REFERENCES 'J. M. pp. Bureau of Mines Rept. 1951. G e o l . 1027-G. The mica tailings were conditioned with 1. The mica concentrate contained about 94 pct mica. Riley: Progress Report on P e m a t i t e Investigations in South Dakota for Fiscal Years 1954-56. G. Norton and D. it was conditioned with 2 lb of sulfuric acid and 0. 'S.5 lb of sodium fluoride. D. 18 pp.2 lb of coco amine acetate. 4. The resulting concentrate contained 6. 'H. Final results and milling cost studies will be available when these tests end. 'F. The overall recovery of beryllium from the spodumene plant tailings was about 66 pct. D. spodumene. The concentrate assayed 6.M. 18 pp. and J . of Investigations 4928. Mf Runke: Petroleum Solfonate Flotation of Beryl. of l n v e s t i g a t i o n s 4071. 1955. of l n v e s t i g a t i o n s 4040. The USBM has built a 2-tph pilot plant at Kings Mountain and is continuing its program on beryl r e covery. Survey Bull. The spodumene tailings and middlings were combined and conditioned with 2 lb of hydrofluoric acid per ton of bulk concentrate. A beryl rougher concentrate was floated a t a pHof about 7 and cleaned twice.37 pct Be0 and 2. Bureau of Mines R e t . of l n v e s t i g a t i o n s 5067. About 80 pct of the beryl was retarded in the tailings. 1957.the fatty acid. H. D. were the principal contaminants in the mica concentrate.6 pct LizO and represented an overall recovery of 84 pct of the lithia in bulk concentrate. M. and beryl. Cunningham: Progress Report on Pegmatite Investigations in South Dakota for Fiscal Year Ended June 30. Runke. Runke and J. then floated to reject the mica. The results of the tests of the bulk concentrate a r e summarized in Table IV. in the order named. Mullen.48 lb of oleic acid per ton of feed. 1. The spodumene was then floated and cleaned twice. Bureau of Mines R e p t . Kennedy and R. Schlegel: Lithium Resources of North America. B. Then the acid was washed from the pulp. J . Sneddon and H. of Investigations 4166. and 0. Bureau of Mines Rept. 1947.5 lb of magnesium lignin sulfonate. Quartz. 1954. 'J.