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MINE 309


Prof. Dr. etin Hoten

Middle East Technical University
Department of Mining Engineering
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Minerals are the inorganic materials of which the rocks of the earths
crust are made. Some minerals, referred to as commercial minerals (or
economic minerals), supply the raw materials for industry, agriculture, and
commerce. The economic recovery of commercial minerals from the earths
crust and processing them into products for various end uses begin with
geologists and mining engineers. Geologists discover new deposits of
minerals in demand, and mining engineers extract them from the ground by
mining operations. The as-mined material, called the run-of-mine (r.o.m), is
particulate in nature, consisting of a mixture of particles of various sizes that
can range from fine dust to large boulders, as large as a meter or more in
diameter. It may also be associated with moisture to a greater or lesser
extent depending on how wet the conditions are in the mining operation.
Furthermore, in most cases, the run-of-mine material consists of an
assemblage of minerals of valuable and non-valuable or deleterious
(undesirable impurity) kind, which may require the separation of the
valuable mineral(s) from other minerals in the run-of-mine or the removal
of deleterious impurities. As such, virtually no run-of-mine is directly
saleable or suitable for conversion to an intermediate or final product, rather
it requires some physical and/or chemical processing to meet the quality
specifications required by the market.

1.1 Processing Steps from Mine to Market

The processing steps required to obtain marketable products may
involve one or more of the following sequential operations depending on the
type of run-of-mine material:
Size reduction (crushing and grinding) and sizing
Mineral concentration (beneficiation)
Metal extraction
If the run-of-mine ore consists of a rock or soil type (granite, coal,
limestone, marble, building sand, and clay) that requires no concentration or
metal extraction, only the first step is needed. It may include simple
screening to remove oversize lumps or undesirable fines so it is easier to
handle and meets the size consist specifications required in the market place.

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It could involve simple crushing operation to reduce the top size of the
material to some acceptable limit; or, as in the case of the quarrying
industry, where a variety of stone aggregates having different sizes are
required, fairly complex crushing and screening operations may need to be
applied before the stone can be sold.
If the run-of-mine ore consists of some minerals that are valueless
(waste or gangue) and some that have value in the form in which they occur
naturally (industrial minerals), the first two steps are required. The valuable
minerals need to be separated from the gangue, without changing the
physical or chemical identity of the minerals. Therefore, the mineral
concentration (or separation) step is a physical process. The physical
recovery of valuable minerals invariably requires some manipulation of the
physical nature of the run-of-mine. Almost always this will involve reducing
the size of particles to a degree that will cause the valuable minerals to
become physically disengaged (liberated) from the gangue. The first two
steps, which are physical in nature, are generally referred to as mineral
processing. A broader definition of mineral processing, however, includes
chemical extraction of soluble valuable constituents of ores by dissolving
the values in an aqueous solution of appropriate chemicals and recovering
them from the solution.
If the run-of-mine contains metallic minerals, in which the valuable
metal component is chemically bonded within the structure of the value-
bearing minerals, it is essential to go through the chemical metal extraction
stage, referred to as extractive metallurgy. Very frequently the value-
bearing mineral (e.g., chalcopyrite, sphalerite, galena) is present in such low
concentrations that it may not be economically feasible to conduct a
chemical-extraction process on the run-of-mine material without discarding
the bulk of the gangue by mineral processing operations. The chemical
metal extraction process can then be applied to the mineral concentrate,
which would constitute a considerably smaller amount than the original run-

1.2 Minerals and Ores

The forms in which metals are found in the earth's crust and as sea-bed
deposits depend on their reactivity with their environment, particularly with
oxygen, sulphur, and carbon dioxide. The more reactive metals are always
found in compound form, such as the oxides and sulphides of iron and the
oxides and silicates of aluminium and beryllium, while the non-reactive
metals, the gold and platinum, are found principally in the native or metallic

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form. Some other metals, like silver, copper and mercury, are found native, as
well as in the form of sulphides, carbonates, and chlorides.
The naturally occurring inorganic substances having a definite chemical
composition and physical characteristics are known as minerals, most of
which have been given names according to their composition; for example,
galena (PbS, lead sulphide), sphalerite (ZnS, zinc sulphide), cassiterite (SnO2,
tin oxide), calcite (CaCO3, calcium carbonate).
The term "mineral" is often used in a much more extended sense to
include anything of economic value which is extracted from the earth. For
example, coal, chalk, clay, and granite do not come within the strict definition
of a mineral, but their productions are usually included in figures for mineral
production. Such materials are, in fact, rocks, which are an assemblage of
minerals and are not homogeneous in chemical and physical composition.
Granite, for instance, is composed of three main mineral constituents, feldspar,
quartz, and mica. These three homogeneous mineral components occur in
varying proportions in different granites even in different parts of the same
granite mass.
An ore mineral is one that may be used to obtain one or more metals.
Ore minerals are commonly interspersed with non-metallic minerals or rock
matter, called gangue.
An ore can be described briefly as an accumulation of mineral(s) in
sufficient quantity as to be capable of economic extraction. This establishes
the market price of the metal as a criterion in the definition, and this will vary
according to the commercial demands. The metal content of an ore is called
the grade (or the tenor), which is generally expressed in percentage, or, in the
case of precious metals, in ounces per ton. The minimum grade required for a
mineral deposit to qualify as an ore varies from metal to metal. For example,
copper ores contain, as mined, as little as 0.5% Cu, whereas iron ores
containing les than about 20% metal are regarded as non-profitable.
A convenient subdivision of commercial minerals (or economic
minerals), into three main categories, is made on the basis of primary
constituent and usage:
Metallic minerals
minerals of base metals (Cu, Pb, Zn, Sn), so-called because they
constitute the basis of our industry.
minerals of steel industry metals (Fe, Ni, Cr, Mn, Mo, W, V)
minerals of light metals (Al, Mg)
minerals of electronic industry metals (Cd, Bi, Ge)
minerals of precious metals (Au, Ag, Pt)
minerals of radioactive metals (U, Th, Ra)

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Non-metallic (industrial) minerals
are minerals and rocks which, though valuable, are not used primarily
as sources of metals or fuels. Industrial minerals include a wide
variety of commodities, from low-value materials such as sand and
gravel through high-value commodities such as industrial diamonds.
Rocks may be used in their natural state as building or dimension
stone, as crushed rock (for concrete aggregate), for certain special
purposes because of unique properties (e.g., limestone for its calcium
carbonate). Some other examples of industrial mineral categories are:
Insulating materials (mica, asbestos); refractory materials (silica,
alumina, zircon, graphite); abrasives, and gems (corundum, emery,
garnet, diamond, topaz, emerald, sapphire); general industrial
minerals (phosphate rock, limestone, rock salt, barite, borates,
feldspars, magnesite, gypsum, potash, trona, clays, sulfur). Several
metallic minerals are also used as industrial minerals. Thus, rutile
(TiO2) is a metallic mineral as a source of titanium metal but also an
industrial mineral when used as a source of TiO2 for pigment or
other chemicals.
Mineral fuels (fossil fuels)
solid fuels like coals of various ranks and oil shale, and liquid fuels
petroleum and natural gas.

Gangue minerals are the associated non-metallic materials of a deposit,

but in technical usage the gangue includes also some metallic minerals, such
as pyrite, which are usually discarded as worthless. Certain gangue materials,
however, may be collected as by-products and utilized. The gangue may be
classified as calcareous or basic (lime rich), or siliceous, or acidic (silica rich).

1.3 Objectives of Mineral Processing

Mineral processing technology is a combination of technical skill and
economic justification. Therefore, the objectives of mineral processing are
of two kinds, technical and economic. To bring the marketable product or
"concentrate" into the technical condition required by the customer is the
technical objective. The product may have to conform to requirements such
as particle size, grade, moisture content, degree of liberation of valuable
mineral from associated minerals. The second objective is to keep the process
economically justifiable while meeting technical requirements. The processing
operation will not be economically justified unless the product has a selling
price greater than all the costs involved in producing it, namely, mining,

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processing, transportation, and marketing costs, and the costs incurred in
meeting environmental regulations.
Benefits resulting from mineral processing prior to smelting or other
treatment can be summarized as the following:
1. By discarding considerable amount of the gangue or waste minerals
with the use of relatively cheap, low-energy physical methods, mineral
processing essentially reduces the bulk of the ore which must be
transported; and hence, quite considerable freight savings can be
2. Since the gangue or waste in the shipment to smelter has been
considerably reduced, metal losses in subsequent extractive
metallurgical steps and energy costs are correspondingly reduced.
3. The reduced tonnage of materials to be treated results in drastic
reductions of post-mineral-processing treatment charges.
4. Deleterious impurities, mostly associated with the gangue, are rejected
in mineral processing, which would otherwise reduce the value of the
ore due to smelter penalties imposed on such impurities and it
probably be technically very difficult to produce high-grade metal
products free from these impurities.
5. When concentration methods are both efficient and cheap, it is often
possible to produce ores of lower grade by high tonnage mining

The market price of a mineral product is a vital factor in determining the

economics of mining and mineral processing. Most mineral trading takes
place within the market economy and the prices of minerals and mineral
products are governed by the factors of supply and demand. The value of an
industrial mineral product depends largely on its end use and the amount of
processing it has undergone; with more specific specifications of chemical
purity, crystalline perfection, physical form, hardness, etc., the price goes up.
Metallic mineral concentrates are sold under contract usually to custom
smelters. A custom smelter is one that purchases concentrates and smelts them
to saleable metal(s). The price paid by a smelter depends primarily on the
market price of the metal(s) contained in the concentrate. The smelter makes
deductions based on all costs involved in smelting, including smelting losses,
as well as penalties for constituents in the ore or concentrate that are
detrimental to the smelting process. Payments and deductions terms agreed
between the concentrator and smelter are stated in smelter contracts or smelter

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1.4 Scope of Mineral Processing
Mineral processing combines a series of distinct unit operations to
accomplish its objectives. These include:
liberation by size reduction of the desired mineral grains from their
associated gangue,
separation into different size ranges to establish uniformity of particle
size to facilitate subsequent processing,
separation of the desired valuable constituents from the undesired,
final handling of the product for sale such as reducing water content,
blending various products to meet required specifications, and size
enlargement, if necessary,
environmentally-safe disposal of waste materials,
the transport of material and water through all stages of the process,
product storage to await shipment,
sampling stockpiles, bulk carriers, in-plant dry solids and slurry
streams for technical process control and economic appraisal.

Mineral processing operations for different ores are made up of different

combinations, in kind and degree, of all or some of the above unit operations.
A line or block diagram illustrating the sequence of the unit operations to
process an ore is called a flow sheet. A simplified flow sheet for a simple-to-
treat ore is shown in Fig. 1-1.

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Oversize return

Screening or


Mineral separation

Concentrate Tailing

Filter Tailing

Figure 1-1. A simplified mineral processing flow sheet.