R Imhof, M Battersby, F Parra and S Sanchez-Pino

Pneumatic flotation, as developed by Dr Rainer Imhof, has been applied in commercial beneficiation operations since 1987. Over 85 flotation cells have been installed in more than 30 operations, successfully beneficiating a wide range of minerals. Pneumatic flotation is however still considered as a non-conventional flotation process. Due to its highly selective nature in operation it has generally found its market in difficult applications where conventional flotation equipment has struggled.
Compañía Minera Huasco (CMH) operates an iron ore pellet plant in central Chile. CMH desired to produce a low silica pellet for the export market where the SiO2 grade should not exceed 1.5 per cent. It is common practice in other countries to float quartz from hematite with relative ease. However, the silicates contained in the magnetite ore of CMH are only present as quartz in small quantities and the major undesirable silicates are difficult to float.
CMH spent considerable time on developing a reverse flotation process and a reagent suite to try and reduce the silica content to acceptable levels. However, extensive laboratory and pilot plant tests with conventional mechanical tank type cells and with column cells failed to produce the required reduction in impurities. A series of tests with pneumatic flotation cells indicated that this type of flotation technology could achieve the required silica target. A 500 tph Imhoflot pneumatic flotation plant was subsequently constructed and successfully commissioned by CMH, making it one of the largest iron ore flotation plants in the world.
This paper details the background and testing that was undertaken by CMH which led them to choose pneumatic flotation as the preferred process and compares the test results with that achieved in the industrial plant.
Presented at The Centenary of Flotation Conference, Brisbane, Australia, June, 2005

The Successful Application of Pneumatic Flotation Technology for the Removal of Silica by Reverse Flotation at the Iron Ore Pellet Plant of Compañía Minera Huasco, Chile