The flotation of magnetic and non-magnetic pyrrhotite from selected nickel ore deposits

18 Aug 2010

The non-stoichiometric sulfide mineral pyrrhotite (Fe(1 x)S), common to many nickel ore deposits, occurs in different crystallographic forms and compositions. A series of pyrrhotite samples derived from Canada, South Africa and Botswana whose mineralogy is well characterised, were selected here in order to develop the relationship between mineralogy and flotation performance. Using both oxygen uptake and microflotation tests, the behaviour of the different pyrrhotite types was compared in terms of the effect of pH and collector addition. Non-magnetic pyrrhotite was less reactive in terms of its oxygen uptake and showed the best collectorless flotation recovery. Magnetic pyrrhotite was more reactive and showed poor collectorless flotation performance that could be improved with the addition of xanthate collector, but only if it was not already passivated. These differences are interpreted to be a result of pyrrhotite mineralogy. This has implications that may aid the manipulation of pyrrhotite flotation performance in processing operations.