The Electrochemical Response of Chalcopyrite and Galena to Degrading Water Quality
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Water is used as a liquid medium as well as a means of transportation during mining operations. Flotation, in particular, is a water intensive process where water makes up about 80–85% of the pulp phase. Process water contains organic and inorganic species which accumulate as they are recycled. To avoid the treatment costs of removing these contaminants, many mining operations allow the quality of their water to degrade over time. When this water is introduced into flotation circuits, the pulp chemistry is altered. Ionic species that accumulate in recycled process water have been shown by previous studies to be especially deleterious to flotation performance. Such ions include Ca<sup>2+</sup>, Cu<sup>2+</sup>, Mg<sup>2+</sup>, Pb<sup>2+</sup>, SO<sub>4</sub><sup>2−</sup> and S<sub>2</sub>O<sub>3</sub><sup>2−</sup>, amongst others. The flotation sub-process of collector adsorption which is responsible for inducing hydrophobicity on valuable mineral surfaces may be influenced by water chemistry. Accumulating ionic species have been shown to hinder collector adsorption which may reduce recovery of valuable minerals to the concentrate. Consequently, degrading water quality may threaten the economic viability of mining operations that make use of closed water circuits. Electrochemical techniques such as mineral rest potentials can be used to monitor the impact of changing water quality on collector–mineral interactions. Microflotation was used to determine whether mineral floatability was affected by changing water quality. This study therefore aimed to investigate whether electrochemical techniques such as rest potential measurements can be used to predict flotation performance under changing water quality. No definable relationship was found between the rest potential differences and the microflotation initial recoveries, however, rest potential measurements did identify the negative impact that thiosulphate ions may have on flotation processes.