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Do Clay Minerals affect the thickener operationin Chuquicamata mine, Calama, Chile?
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering.
2020 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 80 credits / 120 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Chuquicamata mine mineralogy has been studied performing both X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-RayFluorescence (XRF) to determine whether there is any influence in the thickener operations. Thetargeted minerals were the clay group because of their detrimental effect on mining operations asmodify the rheology of the suspensions. The operation stages most affected by the presence of the clayminerals are gravity separation, milling, conveyor belts, flotation and specially thickener operations. Inorder to cope with Chuquicamata production, the plant is constantly fed from a neighboring ore calledRadomiro Tomic (RT) ore, a secondary sulfide enrichment. At Chuquicamata, the thickener operatorfeedback has been pointed out that every time the concentrator plant is fed in high ratio with this so-called RT ore the mineral processing is hindered. For this reason, RT ore samples from a criticaloperation day were sent to Sweden for mineralogical analysis. In addition, flotation tailings from thethree Chuquicamata concentrator plants were also sent aimed to perform thickener pilot tests. In thismanner, it was seen if it could be possible to achieve new operational strategies in Chuquicamatathickener operations given the current Chuquicamata mineralogy and physical conditions in the flotationtailings.From the XRD analysis, the following clay minerals were identified in order of abundance:

                                          Illite>>Kaolinite>SmectiteThus, illite reached up to 23.3vol% being the highest clay amount, followed by lower case kaolinite up to2.5% and up to 1% of smectite values correspond for the RT sample. However, the clay content in theflotation tailings samples were less than expected. Also, clay Crystallinity was also assessed for its abilityto interfere negatively with the pulp rheology, and the results showed that there is a strong link amongpoor crystallized smectite clay with the semi-autogenous mill compare to those samples where themilling was performed in the traditional steel media. Along with the three clay minerals found, quartz,potassic feldspar, and plagioclase were also identified, accounting for up to 76% of the representativesample. The silicate minerals are thought to be problematic in Chuquicamata thickener operations givenits high amount, especially in <2 µm size.For the thickener tests, three types of polyacrylamide were used plus the current Chuquicamataflocculant. Prior to the sedimentation batch test, the rheology of the flocculants was measured in arange of 0.02%w/w to 1%. It was found that flocculant concentrations between 0.02 to 0.05%w/w themost suitable in terms of avoiding suspension rheology increase. After establishing suitable flocculantconcentrations solutions, these were used in the thickener pilot tests at conditions similar to thoseperformed in Chuquicamata thickener operations. Two criteria were used to analyze the bestsedimentation conditions: Initial settling rate (ISR); and Turbidimeter. At pH in a range of 11-12 and 15%solid, bridging flocculation probed to be the most suitable conditions for Chuquicamata thickeneroperations. Moreover, a polyacrylamide blend was tested aiming to achieve high sedimentationperformances. The flocculant blend reached both the highest initial sedimentations rate up to 48m/hand turbidity values below 20NTU at addition rate 5g/t and 7g/t. On the other hand, Chuquicamatacurrent flocculant only reached the highest values of 36m/h and turbidity of 40NTU at an addition rateof 5g/t. In this way, the current work established that conditions at Chuquicamata thickener operation

4can be improved by understanding the absorption process among particle-polymer and mineralogy ofthe mine.Hence, the implication of this work to Chuquicamata mine is a better knowledge of its mineralogyespecially concerned with it is believed that clay minerals are not the only mineralogical factors thatcould be hindering thickener operations in Chuquicamata. Other factors that also could be problematicare: high content of silicates; clay crystallinity, particle size and mixed clay. In addition, the improvementin the thickener sedimentation operations will bring better use of the water by increasing therecirculation towards the concentrator area in a friendly way with the environment and communitiesthat also demand water in the arid region of the Atacama Desert.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2020. , p. 69
Keywords [en]
Mine, clay minerals, mineral processing
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-77458OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-77458DiVA, id: diva2:1387208
External cooperation
Reingenieria minera
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Master Programme in Georesources Engineering
Presentation
2019-06-10, F434, Luleå University of Technology SE-971 87 LULEÅ Sweden, Lulea, 21:33 (English)
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2020-01-22 Created: 2020-01-20 Last updated: 2020-01-22Bibliographically approved

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