Aggregation index and a methodology to study the role of magnesium in aggregation of sulphide slurries
Aggregation, i.e., the tendency of particles to cluster, can be expected to influence flotation selectivity. In this paper, a method of measuring aggregation is introduced and used to conduct plant surveys. Aggregation is measured using settling rate and turbidity converted to an aggregation index (AI) where 0 corresponds to most dispersed and 1 to most aggregated over the range of conditions tested, normally pH. Surveys of Cu and Zn flotation stages at four concentrators showed the AI increased significantly above pH 9. The metal ions identified in the process waters, principally Ca and Mg, were tested to determine which might be responsible. The presence of Mg was found to be the most important. In doping tests, Mg was shown to cause significant variation in AI over the pH range of 9 to 12. The impact of Mg was restricted to pH > 9. Over this pH range, Mg forms a range of hydroxy species, including Mg(OH)2 precipitates. An aggregation mechanism associated with these precipitates, electrostatic bridging, is suggested. Possible problems and opportunities in flotation practice arising from the findings are discussed.