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Selective separation of chalcopyrite from pyrite with a novel non-hazardous biodegradable depressant

Khoso, Sultan Ahmed, Hu, Yuehua, Lyu, Fei, Liu, Runqing, Sun, Wei
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.232 pp. 888-897
X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, adsorption, biodegradability, copper, oxidation, pH, polyglutamic acid, pyrite, toxicity, zeta potential
Pyrite depression in copper ore flotation often requires large doses of inorganic depressants that lead to high toxicity, high costs, and low selectivity. Thus, this study offers a novel pyrite depressant, polyglutamic acid (PGA), in the selective flotation of chalcopyrite with xanthate as a collector. The flotation and adsorption mechanism on chalcopyrite and pyrite were systematically studied using a series of flotation tests, zeta potential measurements, adsorption analysis, infrared spectral (IR) analysis, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis. The addition of PGA depressed the flotation of pyrite more strongly than chalcopyrite in the wide pH range of 8–12. In the presence of PGA, selective separation between the two minerals was achieved at pH 9, and the recovery of chalcopyrite was over 85% and that of pyrite was less than 20%. All of the surface analysis techniques indicated that PGA interacted differently with the two minerals and the surface of pyrite adsorbed a much greater amount of PGA than that of chalcopyrite. Prior addition of PGA significantly reduced the adsorption of the collector on the pyrite surface and thus depressed its flotation. However, the significant adsorption of the collector and its oxidation to dixanthogen on the chalcopyrite surface caused its improved flotation even in the presence of PGA. Therefore, PGA, which is a non-hazardous, biodegradable, and renewable reagent, could be used as an alternative pyrite depressant in Cu–Fe conventional flotation circuits.