The mining industry involves wide use of various chemicals (flotation reagents like frothers and collectors,depressants, activators, dispersants, pH modifiers, etc.) to caterto mineral processing problems. Froth flotation is a process which is used to separate hydrophobic material from hydrophilic material. This results in the recovery of valuable material. This action also called mineral beneficiation. Success of this process highly depends on the chemicals used during froth flotation. These chemicals are also called flotation chemicals or frothers. They are liquids that produce foam and enable physical separation between the minerals and the waste material. Frothers are designed to be strongenough to make the minerals float and weak enough to let the waste materialsettle down. Different frothers are used for flotation of sulfide and non-sulfide minerals.
Though flotation chemicals are widely used in various industries likewaste water treatment and paper recycling,mining is estimated to be biggest consumer of flotation chemicals.The usage of frothers depends on the type of mineral to be processed.The choice of chemical for processing a specific ore is influenced by various factors like water chemistryand mineralogy. In the mining industry, commonly used frothers include pineoil, methyl isobutyl Carbinol (MIBC), and propylene glycol. Cost is an important factor considered by the miner while choosingchemicals, as even a 1% increase in recovery of mineral can gain additional revenue for the business.
The mining chemical industry has grown over the years. Consumption of mining flotationchemicals has grown at a higher pace than mining production as lower quality ores require a high use of chemicals for further refining. Globally, China and North America are estimated to be biggest consumers of mining flotation chemicals. China is estimated to be a major extractor of gold followed by South Africa. China, a resource hungry country, is estimated to consume 50% of the total mining chemical globally.
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Methyl isobutyl Carbinol or MIBC is the most commonly used frother as it offers maximum recovery of metal. Celanese,a major market player in mining flotation chemical market,in collaboration with Central South University in China, conducted a research program comparing the performance of different frother agents, and MIBC proved to be most effective and efficient frother for mining processes. U.S., Europe and South America are estimated to be largest consumers of MIBC.
Major companies in mining flotation chemicals include NASACO, BASF Mining Chemicals, Clariant Mining Solutions, Cheminova, SNF FloMin, CP Kelcoand Orica.Companies are focusing on research and development to cater the complex ores. Major players also offer off-shelf and customized services to ensure customers get the best flotation reagents for their ore types. In June 2013, BASF opened a new technical laboratory for mining applications in South Africa to offer specialist services in mining processes of the country.
The future of mining flotation chemicals is estimated to be very bright as the mining industry will continue to develop and invest in modern beneficiation solutions to increase efficiency. The top 5 countries in the mining sector include Canada, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Australia. Till date, froth flotation has been the best process for mineral beneficiation.Hence,the flotation chemical segment is considered to be an attractive one by investor. Frothflotationoptimization services has been the new trend in this sector.
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