Univ South Australia, Future Ind Inst, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia;Univ South Australia, Future Ind Inst, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia;Univ South Australia, Future Ind Inst, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia;Univ South Australia, Future Ind Inst, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia;Univ South Australia, Future Ind Inst, Adelaide, SA 5095, Australia;
Abaka-Wood, George Blankson;Quast, Keith;Zanin, Massimiliano;Addai-Mensah, Jonas;Skinner, William;
A number of gravity separation techniques for rare earth elements (REE) minerals have been investigated and reported in the literature. These include the use of dense/heavy media, Falcon concentrators, Knelson concentrators, spiral concentrators, laboratory scale jigs, and shaking tables. Most of these methods have provided considerable REE minerals recovery and upgrade; but remain at the laboratory testing stage. There are vast quantities of iron-oxide-silicate rich tailings (IST) containing low grade REE in Australia. This work is part of research and development studies currently underway at the University of South Australia to develop economically viable methods to exploit selected IST for their REE contents. In this investigation, the feasibility of exploiting the differences in specific gravity to concentrate REE minerals from a typical IST sample was studied using two gravity separation units, a Knelson concentrator (KC) and Wilfley shaking table. The feed sample and gravity separation products were characterised using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Quantitative Evaluation of Minerals by Scanning Electron Microscopy (QEMSCAN) to study and compare the performance of the KC and shaking table as gravity preconcentration methods. The results indicated that the performance of both the KC and shaking table are significantly dependent on the mineralogical and particle size characteristics of the feed, however, the tabling was found to be the preferred choice over the KC, due to its greater selectivity. Tabling of >38 pm feed samples produced the desired split between the iron oxides and silicate minerals. The results suggest that desliming of the feed to remove fine/ultrafine particles (<38 pm) prior to tabling is key to attaining the desired results with the shaking table. Overall, tabling produced appreciable REE minerals upgrade, with iron oxides occupying the bulk of the concentrates. The test results confirm the complex mineralogy of the IST, which compromised REE minerals upgrade. A modified concentration criterion expression which considers the liberation characteristics of minerals is proposed, which provides a better idea on the feasibility of gravity separation. (C) 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.