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Proceedings of the XI International Seminar on

Mineral Processing Technology (MPT-2010)
Editors: R. Singh, A. Das, P.K. Banerjee, K.K. Bhattacharyya and N.G. Goswami
NML Jamshedpur, pp. 166172


P.F. Joseph, V.G.K. Prasad, A.J. Janarthanan and R.V. Viswanath
Indian Rare Earths Limited, Chavara

Magnetic separation has long been used to upgrade and beneficiate a wide variety of industrial minerals.
Advances in both wet and dry magnetic separators over the years has broadened their use, and questions are
often raised about which separation technique or equipment type is most appropriate for a particular
operation. Minerals separation based on magnetic susceptibility differences in particles is accomplished wet
or dry, at various intensities and in different basic machine configurations. The following types of industrial
magnetic separators used in a modern mineral sands plant:

Wet high-intensity electromagnetic separators (WHIMS)

Wet low-intensity drum separators (LIMS)
Dry high intensity induced roll magnetic separators (IRMS)
Dry low intensity drum-type separators or scalper magnets
Dry high-intensity rare-earth drum (RED) separators, and
Dry high-intensity rare-earth roll (RER) separators

The selection of magnetic separation technology depends on many processing factors, including particle size,
and the specific assemblage of minerals and grades as well as their corresponding magnetic susceptibility.
Additionally, production and marketing factors must also be considered.

As operations always look to reduce drying requirements for obvious cost implications, employing
wet magnetic separation early in a process can greatly benefit an operation if a low-grade final
tailing, or a clean marketable product, can be produced, since it alleviates both drying and dry
storage costs. While WHIMS use can be advantageous, a common drawback of conventional
designs is entrapment of non-magnetics in the magnetics product, particularly when treating finer
particles. Therefore WHIMS is normally used after conventional gravity concentration to remove
a magnetic stream that can be upgraded easily to finished-product ilmenite. The resulting nonmagnetic fraction is then further upgraded by gravity concentration, and followed by conventional
dry separation techniques to separate the higher value zircon and rutile products. This paper will
provide a brief look at our experience in the induction and assimilation of wet high intensity
magnetic separation technology for the bulk separation of up-graded heavy minerals before
treating it for separation of individual minerals.




Feed material is introduced into the distributor above the machine at a predetermined pulp density.
This feed material is equally distributed to each of the stainless steel boil boxes positioned above
the rotor and then passed into the rotor assembly at the ascending point of magnetic intensity. The
magnetic particles contained in the feed are attracted to the serrations on the salient pole plates
while the non-magnetic particles fall freely through into the catch box below. A regulated volume
of water is provided to ensure the continuity of flow of the non-magnetics and free any particles,
which may be trapped by the collection of the magnetics at the points of the serrated salient plates.
The magnetic fractions are transported to the midpoint of the 'null' zone located between two poles
of identical polarity. Here they are scoured free from the salient poles by a pressurised volume of
water and collected in their respective catch boxes located beneath the rotor. Three catch-box segments,
with adjustable splitters, are provided for each separating zone to allow for maximum flexibility of
operation and permit the selection of a middling fraction if required. The product from each catchbox is taken through rubber hoses to a collection box assembly secured beneath the machine.




The Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator has a number of operating variables, which relate to
its performance. These variables may be defined into two distinct groups:
Machine Variables
(a) Coil amperes (magnetic intensity)
(b) Feed box position
(c) Non-magnetics wash water volume and position
(d) Splitter positions

Feed Variables
(a) Mineral composition
(b) Particles size
(c) Feed rate
(d) Pulp density

The correct settings or limitations of any of the above variable quantities can be established by the
carrying out of a test program upon a representative sample of ore.
Coil Amperes (magnetic intensity)
As the coil current is increased, the magnetic flux density rises and thus results in an increased
magnetics recovery. However, at high magnetic, extraction will in turn result in increase of the
entrainment of non-magnetic minerals.
Feed Box Position
The location of the feed box in relation to the zones of high and low magnetic intensity has an
effect on product recovery. The recommended feed box position is in an area of ascending
magnetic intensity in order to ensure the magnetic particles are trapped in the converging field
between the serrated points of the salient plates. If the feed box be moved in an anticlockwise
direction around the rotor the magnetic extraction decreases. And if the feed box be positioned at
the centre line of the core block the feed would enter at a weakly magnetic zone, with only the
more highly susceptible particles being extracted, all others reporting as non-magnetics.
Alternatively, magnetic extraction increases as the feed box is moved in a clockwise direction
towards the optimum position. Therefore, the position of the feed box to be in the right place is
essential for efficient separation.
Non-magnetics wash water volume and position
Positioning: The non-magnetics and magnetics wash water assemblies should be positioned
downstream of the feed box.
Water Volume: The requirement of volume of wash water is optimised by laboratory tests. The
more the volume, the more will be extracted as non-mags resulting in more mag reporting to non-mags.
Splitter Positions
The splitters are an integral part of the catch boxes which are located circumferentially beneath
the rotor salient plates. The function of the splitters is to direct the separated products into the
correct catch boxes according to their classification either as non-magnetics, middling or magnetic


Mineral composition
The composition of a mineral feed has a marked bearing upon the flow-sheet design and the settings
utilised to obtain an efficient separation. Generally speaking, for a given feed composition, extraction
of the magnetics should remain constant. Fluctuations in the assemblage of such a feed will however
introduce fluctuations in the distribution and quality of the products and if such assemblage
changes are extreme then adjustments to the machine settings will be necessary to restore the
products to within specification. After the equipment was supplied, installed and operated for quite
some time, IREL have successfully carried out a study to optimize the machine settings, especially
the coil amperage, when it was observed fluctuation in assemblage of feed than the designed one.
Feed Sizing
Particles of mineral feed which are fed to a Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator are subjected
to magnetic, gravitational, inertial and hydro-dynamic forces. Accordingly, the resultant behaviour
of a particle is dependent upon the size of that particle, and if particle sizes remain within a
nominated range the separation of magnetic from non-magnetic grains can be effected. If a
composite feed exists which contains too broad a spectrum of sizes, or alternatively very small or
very large grains then the efficiency of separation is reduced.
Feed Rate
Each particular mineral feed has an optimum feed rate for any specific set of operating conditions.
An increase in the rate of feeding beyond the optimum introduces a reduction in separating
efficiency. If the feed rate increases beyond the optimum then the recovery rates decrease. This is
due to the overcrowding of mineral grains within the rotor.
Pulp Density
If the pulp density drops below the required value, the velocity of the pulp will increase and this
causes rapid passage of the grains through the rotor, which will reduce the recovery of the
magnetic minerals. Where the pulp density is too high overcrowding in the rotor takes place, and
the recovery of both magnetics and non-magnetics is reduced. To ensure an efficient operation, the
pulp density should be controlled within 3% of the desired value. Maintenance of the above parameters
to the optimum values along with following critical points with respect to the preparation and
presentation of the material is highly essential for obtaining and maintaining the separation
efficiency. The critical points of feed preparation are
Protection of the machine from oversize feed particles (two stage screening devices are
provided at up-stream of the machine with this intent)
Protection of the machine from highly magnetic feed material (a low intensity drum magnetic
separator is provided at up-stream of the machine with this intent)
Feed Pulp Density recommendations (the feed pump is provided with density control valve
with close loop control to maintain the desired pulp density for the feed)
If feed contain excessively oversize particles in quantity, then the air gaps will become blocked
and metallurgical performance of the machine will seriously be affected. Hence the pre-screening
of the feed is an important function. Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator is accompanied by a low


intensity wet magnetic drum separator. This ensures that highly susceptible ferromagnetic materials
do not enter the Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separator and affect metallurgical performance.
Variations in pulp density of a feed beyond optimum levels results in a reduction of separating
efficiently. If the pulp density be higher than optimum the transfer of the non-magnetic particles to
magnetic product is possible. The opposite case, when the pulp density is lower than optimum, a
reduction in the extraction of magnetic material is possible. Generally 30%-35% solids by volume
is suitable in mineral sands.
Problems faced and experience gained
Prior to the introduction of WHIMS in the separation process, the magnetic separation of the upgraded dried feed was done through a battery of induced roll magnetic separators and cross belt
magnetic separators which required considerable amount of power and floor space notwithstanding
the polluting atmosphere caused by air borne dust. This necessitated the requirement of a number
of associated material handling equipment viz., bucket elevators and belt conveyors with
consequential requirement of additional manpower. By the introduction of WHIMS, the up-graded
feed could be separated in bulk up-front, in wet form into mag and nonmag which after drying can
be independently treated through mag and non mag circuits.. In view of the individual WHIMSs
high capacity, single WHIMS could make a bank of conventional processing equipment and the
resultant dry material handling equipment redundant. This has resulted in a compact and modular
plant, facilitating flexibility in production process.
Effort towards adopting the technology
WHIMS technology came as a part of turnkey package towards capacity expansion and
modernization of Chavara plant. The contractor trained our engineers and operators to operate the
equipment which in initial stage was very effective in the introduction of new technology, but it
was felt that if incremental improvement is not done in adopting and assimilating the new
technology fully , productivity of the equipment will decline over a period of time. History shows
that more effective assimilation of new technology happens when definite and specific steps are
taken to train in depth not only operators but also engineers who can effect modification and
adaptation of technology. In this regard opportunities presented to us in the form of failures and
shortcomings that necessitated us to totally domesticate this technology.
Process separation
As is known WHIMS is bulk separating machine that facilitates the separation of upgraded heavy
mineral feed into mag and non mag and the bulk mineral Ilmenite can be obtained as product by
processing the mag in electrostatic machines. Here around 1.5% rutile was getting lost to mag fraction
through trappings and as there was no further magnetic separating machine in down stream Ilmenite
circuit, this rutile was lost forever. In order to overcome this problem the case was structured and
analysed by conducting series of tests. The outcome of tests indicated that pulp density of feed material,
wash water flow-rate and magnetic intensity play major role. Hence modification was done by
incorporating a densification arrangement in the feeding system for ensuring consistent pulp
density (30%). Secondly the magnetic intensity was varied in steps by varying the dc current to the
electromagnets and the output was analyzed to ascertain the optimum parameter. Through this
iterative procedure the rutile loss through Ilmenite was brought down from 1.5% to 0.6%.




Electro magnetic coil failure

WHIMS is compact equipment whose health and vital parameters are monitored and controlled by
a PLC. Sixteen powerful electromagnets are cooled by electrical insulating oil with help of a
coolant oil-water tubular heat exchanger. In one of the WHIMS all sixteen coils failed by fagging
dc imbalance which means that there is a substantial difference in the ingoing and outcoming
currents to the coils. The root cause was analyzed in-house and the causative factor was located.
The cooling system was redesigned departmentally by instituting logic control feedback and the
equipment was put back into operation through our own effort. The magnetic coil assembly is the
most critical component of the machine and could be successfully repaired in India for a fraction
of its price and the machine is since then working satisfactorily.
In India WHIMS is used for mineral separation for the first time in Chavara plant. Being
equipment with high end automation there was apprehension and inertial perplexity initially in
operating and maintaining it, which naturally happens with any new technology. Hence we
adopted a comprehensive approach in our inhouse training for imparting how to use this new
technology by carefully taking into consideration behavioural, social, and contextual factors and
this bore fruit.
The authors would like to record their sincere thanks Dr. R.N. Patra, Chairman and Managing
Director, IREL who is always a source of inspiration behind all our efforts to solve the problems.
We also wish to thank each and every members of the team of Production, Maintenance and
Process Control in IREL Chavara, but for their association this would not have happened.
[1] Wills, Barry A. and Napier-Munn, Tim, 2006, Mineral Processing Technology, An
Introduction to the Practical Aspects of Ore Treatment and Mineral Recovery.