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03/03/2016

Unit Operations in
Mineral Processing
Prof. Rodrigo Serna
Aalto University

Operations after enrichment

• After enrichment, slurries will


require further handling
• Concentrate will be transported
to smelters
• To decrease concentrate
handling volumes and to recycle
process water, it is a common
practice to use dewatering
operations for the slurries
• Sedimentation
• Filtration

• Tailings will be sent to:


• Tailings ponds
• Dry tailings stacks “Dangerous Beauty” by Garth Lenz
Oil sands tailings pond in Canada © National Geographic

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Dewatering

• Dewatering can be performed in stages, typically thickening


filtration and drying:

Slurry (Concentrate) Conditioning

Sedimentation

Filtration

Thermal drying Dry product

Sedimentation

• Sedimentation is classified into:


• Gravitational (a.k.a. thickening)
• Centrifugal
• Widely used dewatering technique
• Relatively cheap
• Can handle large throughputs
• It is based on the density difference between solid particles
and liquid carrier
• Minerals have higher density than water, the most common carrier
• But this may be problematic if particles are too small, or if carrier is
a high density liquor

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Sedimentation

• Design and operation

Thickener tank (top) and flocculation plant (bottom)


in an uranium mine (Australia)
© 2016 - Siteforce Australia Pty Ltd

Sedimentation

• Sizing of settling tanks


• We can determine the liquid linear velocity flowing from the
thickner as a funciton of solids content, feed flow rate and thickener
area:
V=
( X -U ) W
AS
• Since we need to promote settling of solids, the highest velocity of
the liquid cannot exceed the settling velocity of the solids

A=
( X -U ) W
RS
• Question: How do we determine the settling velocity?

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Sedimentation
• Batch settling curve
• Zone A: Clear liquid
• Zone B: Initial solids
concentration
• Zone C: Variable concentration
zone
• Zone D: Settled bed

Solid-liquid height interface


A A
A
B A Critical sedimentation point
B B
C
C C
D D
D D
t0 t2 Time
t1 t

Sedimentation

• Sizing of settling tanks


• We can calculate settling
velocities from the experimental
batch settling curve, but this
varies as sedimentation
Solid-liquid height interface

progresses H0
Slope = sedimentation rate
H
• A sound approach is to use
sedimentation rate at the critical
sedimentation point Critical sedimentation point

• By drawing a tangent to the


experimental curve, and Hu
knowing that
CH = C0 H 0 tu

• and H - Hu Time
R=
tu

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Sedimentation
• Sizing of settling tanks
• Using this approach, we can calculate the thickener area with:
ææ H ö æ H öö
W çç ÷ - ç u ÷÷
èè C0 H 0 ø è C0 H 0 øø t
A= =W u
( H - H u ) tu C0 H 0

• We can see that the required area will be larger for slower settling
rates (i.e., longer tu)
• This becomes problematic, particularly in the case of very fine
particles
- As can be deduced from Stoke’s law:

2 ( rs - rl ) 2
S= gd p
9 m

Sedimentation
• In case of sedimentation of fine particles, there are two
options:
• Supply additional force to increase settling velocity (e.g.,
centrifugal)
• Aggregate particles into large agglomerates, a process called
flocculation

© Metcon

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Sedimentation
• Flocculation
• Solid particles in water will have a similar (negative) charge
• They will not aggregate spontaneously
• To form agglomerates, we use:
- Flocculant molecules, typically, soluble long chain polymers like polyacrylamide
(PAM)
- Coagulants, low molecular weight cationic polymers, e.g., polyamines

- - - + - -
- - - - + - +
- -
- - -
- - -
- - - - - + -
- -+ +
- - +
-
- - -
- - - - - - - - - -
- - +
- - Coagulation mechanism: Flocculation mechanism:
Naturally repelling solids Charge neutralization Bridging

Filtration

• Process of separating solids from liquid through a porous


medium
• Cake filtration is the most common type in mineral
processing
• Liquid passing is called filtrate
• Solids build up is called filter cake
• Cake filtration is a process involving five steps
• Cake formation
• Moisture reduction
• Cake washing
• Cake discharge
• Medium washing

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Filtration

• Filter Medium
• Its main purpose is to support the formation of cake
• Once formed, the filter cake is itself the true separation medium
• Should retain solids without binding
• Mechanically strong
• Corrosion resistant
• Some examples are linen, silk, nylon, metals, glass fiber, polyester
• Cotton fabrics are among the most favored filter medium due to cost
and variety

• Filters can be classified in two major groups


• Pressure filter: Positive pressure applied at the feed
• Vacuum filter: Vacuum is applied at the product end

Filtration

• Examples of pressure filters


• Horizontal pressure filter

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Filtration

• Examples of pressure filters


• Vertical pressure filter

Filtration

• Examples of pressure filters


• Tube press

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Filtration

• Examples of vacuum filters


• Rotary-drum filter
- Continuous operation, one of the most widely used in mineral processing

Filtration

• Examples of vacuum filters


• Disc filter
- Filter can be cloth or micro-porous ceramic

© Gardner Denver Nash (gdnash.com)

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Filtration

• Examples of vacuum filters


• Horizontal belt filter

Filtration

• In order for filtration to occur, there must be a pressure


difference driving the flow of filtrate across the filtering media
• The total resistance in a filter is the sum of the cake
resistance and the medium resistance
• Although for practical purposes, medium resistance is sometimes
considered negligible Feed

DP
= a mc + R
mv Slurry
DP = pressure drop across cake and medium [N/m2]
m = liquid viscosity [N s/m2]
v = filtrate flow rate [m/s] Cake
a = specific cake resistance DP
mc = mass of dry filter cake Medium
R = specific medium resistance

Filtrate (v)

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Filtration

• The cake resistance behavior


can be thus deduced by plotting
DP 5 4
= a mc + R 3
mv 2

DP/mv
1

1. R is zero and a is constant


2. R and a are constant
3. R is constant but a increases
due to compression
4. R and a are constant, but filter
medium gets dirty
mc
5. R and a get blocked

Filtration
• Another way to see this is that the rate at which filtrate is
produced is a function of this driving force (DP):
v = filtrate flow rate [m/s]
A = area of filter [m2]
1 dV DP V = accumulated filtrate volume [m3]
v= = t = time [s]
A dt æ V ö DP = pressure drop across cake and medium [N/m2]
m ça w + R ÷ m = liquid viscosity [N s/m2]
è A ø a = specific cake resistance
w = feed slurry concentration, dry solids per unit of filtrate volume [kg/m3]
R = specific medium resistance

• Which can be rearranged to:


dV m æ a wV ö dV ma w
DP = ç + R÷ = (V + Ve )
dt A è A ø dt A 2
Ve = theoretical volume of filtrate necessary to build a filter cake

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Filtration

• The cake specific resistance depends on the characteristic of


the solid particles, as proposed by the Carman-Kozeny
equation:
K 1- e
a = S02 3
rs e
K = constant, equal to 4,17
S0 = specific surface area of cake particles
e = cake void fraction

• And the mass of solids collected can be calculated by mass


balance mc = w V
A

Filtration
• The pressure drop equation can
also be used in a linearized form
to obtain experimental values for
resistance
dt ma w
= 2 (V +Ve )
dV A DP
• Running filtration experiments
at constant pressure drop (DP),
we can calculate values of a
• With data obtained at various
DP, we can obtain a parameter
called compressibility value (n),
which correlates cake resistance
to operating pressure:
a = a 0 ( DP )
n
Data for filtration of calcite; the reported values of
cake resistance and compressibility factor are
a0 = 5,53 E09 and n = 0,18
(Mahdi and Holdich, Chem. Eng. Res. Design, 91 (2013) 1145)

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Filtration
• Due to cake build-up, filtration
is performed at either:
• Constant pressure
dt ma w
= (V +Ve )
dV A 2 DP

• Constant filtrate flow rate


ma w dV m R dV
DP = 2
V+
A dt A dt

• And we choose the relevant design


equation to calculate filter
dimensions (A) based on the
desired operating mode, flow and
slurry characteristics
Calcite filtration data
(Mahdi and Holdich, Chem. Eng. Res. Design, 91 (2013) 1145)

Final exam

• Friday 08.04.2016
09:00 – 13:00
• Lecture hall V1
• Registration before
1.4. 2016 at 23.59
(WebOodi)

Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario


© Edward Burtynsky

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