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Canadian Metallurgical Quarterly, Vol 44, No 3 pp 379-392, 2005

© Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum
Published by Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum
Printed in Canada. All rights reserved



Laboratoire d’observation et d’optimisation des procédés,

Département de génie des mines, de la métallurgie et des matériaux
Université Laval, Québec, Canada

(Received in revised form May, 2005)

Abstract — The optimization of grinding-flotation processes requires flotation models that react to
changes in the properties of the particle population. This study analyzes the capability of usual flotation
models to respond to changes in the size and composition distributions of the feed particles. A particle
size and composition dependent kinetic flotation model is used to generate synthetic data for varying feed
particle composition, texture and size distribution. Then, six different models are calibrated on these
synthetic data and assessed for their ability to predict the effects due to changes in particle properties. In
spite of the flexibility of distributed flotation rate constants for fitting the effects of particle heterogeneity,
all the models predict poorly the concentrate grade because they do not account explicitly for particle

Résumé — Pour optimiser globalement les procédés de comminution et séparation, les modèles de
flottation doivent être capables de réagir de façon réaliste aux changements des propriétés de la
population de particules traitée. L’objectif de cette étude est d’évaluer les compétences des modèles
usuels de simulation de la flottation à réagir aux changements de composition et de dimension des
particules. La méthodologie de l’étude est basée sur l’utilisation de données de flottation synthétiques
pour des populations de particules de granulométrie, libération et teneur variables. Six modèles
cinétiques habituels, négligeant la mixité des particules, sont calibrés sur ces données et évalués selon
leur aptitude à répondre adéquatement à des perturbations des propriétés structurales des particules.
Malgré la flexibilité offerte par certains modèles au niveau de la distribution des constantes cinétiques,
ils prédisent mal les teneurs de concentré pour des propriétés variables des particules, car ils ne tiennent
pas compte de la distribution de composition des particules.

INTRODUCTION prevailing in the flotation vessel and to the properties of the

particles in the feed. The latter aspect of any flotation model is
Mathematical models of flotation are usually designed to be essential when interactions between the comminution and
used in flotation plant simulators for equipment, flowsheet and flotation plants are being considered [8-14] for overall plant
control strategy design as well as for optimal tuning of existing optimization [15]. Some empirical flotation models account
production units [1-5]. Flotation is described as a kinetic for the incidence of particle size on the rate constant [16-22],
process involving complex surface interactions between but assume that minerals are perfectly liberated. This
particles and air bubbles. The rate of transfer of particles into obviously is not true, but the problems associated with
the concentrate is related to the properties of the slurry phase measurement, representation and prediction of mineral
(three-phase suspension hydrodynamics, bubble size and liberation are still quite complex [23-25] and it is difficult to
load), the froth phase (bubble coalescence, motion of particles, integrate the liberation information into the flotation models.
water and air) and the particles (size, shape, mass and surface The neglected particle properties are taken into account
hydrophobicity). There are quite elaborate fundamental indirectly by introducing possible distributions of the mineral
models which describe the microprocesses occurring in the flotation rates (fast, slow and no floating particles or contin-
slurry and froth phases [7]; however, most flotation models uously distributed rates of flotation [26, 27]).
used for simulation purposes are based on empirical equations The objective of the paper is to examine the validity of
relating the rate constants to the operating conditions empirical models to represent or extrapolate the flotation



process response to changes in ore texture, mineral grade and strictly related to its surface composition and not to its
size reduction by grinding. The methodology followed volume composition. However, because of the statistical
consists of a comparison of the results of various flotation correlation existing between both compositions, it is
models with reference simulated batch flotation experiments. legitimate as a first approximation to relate flotation kinetics
The reference flotation behavior is generated using a to volume composition. One drawback of this assumption is
synthetic population of particles involving the description of that it is impossible to take account of the unfloatable mineral
the size and mineral composition of the particles. The grains completely surrounded by gangue. This phenomenon
simulation is performed assuming a composition and size might be significant for low mineral content particles and
dependent attachment to bubbles as well as a mass dependent finely disseminated minerals. The simulation study is limited
entrainment to the concentrate. The investigated flotation to a binary ore containing grains of a valuable mineral
models are of varying complexities and are all calibrated on scattered in a gangue matrix. The steps followed to generate
the simulated experimental results. Then, the prediction the particle populations are the following:
performances of the models are assessed with respect to their 1. Generation of the ore cumulative size distribution using
reaction to changes in the particle population properties as a parameterized model as a function of the size d, a number
well as to the parameter sensitivity. of n particle classes are thus created. The Gates-Gaudin-
The paper is organized as follows. First, the method Schumann is selected for the passing cumulative fractions
used to generate particle populations and batch flotation (j = 1 to n, in a decreasing size order)
synthetic data are explained. Then, the model structures are m
described and calibrated using these synthetic results. The Ê dj ˆ
Xj = Á ˜ (1)
simulator, as well as the various models, is submitted to the Ë Xo ¯
same perturbations of the flotation feed particle population. In where m is an adjustable parameter. The non-cumulative
the next stage of model evaluation, the parameters of the fractions are then
various models are calibrated on the simulated results and
their sensitivity is evaluated. The selection of the flotation x j = X j -1 - X j (2)
models is finally discussed with respect to a possible trade-off
between the sensitivity and the performance of the models. Table I presents the values selected for the reference population
used in the numerical examples presented later (m = 0.42, X0
= 300 mm ).
GENERATION OF PARTICLE POPULATIONS 2. Selection of the ore mineral content t (mass fraction). For
the reference population, the chalcopyrite content is 4.33%
The flotation feed particles used for the simulation are corresponding to a copper content of 1.5%.
described by their size (d) and volume composition (z) distri- 3. Generation of the mineral content of each size fraction tj.
butions since their flotation responses are assumed to be This is performed through an empirical equation which links
controlled mainly by this (d, z) pair of properties. Variations the ore and mineral cumulative size distributions as it is
of shape are neglected as well as those related to surface frequently observed on ground ore populations [28-31]. The
composition. It is clear that the particle hydrophobicity is cumulative mass fraction of mineral in size classes j, cj is

Table I – Size and composition characteristics of the reference population

Size % Cum. Mineral Cumulated Mineral Mineral Distribution Gangue Distribution Unliberated Unliberated
classes Retai- passing distri- mineral grade liberated of the liberated of the fraction mineral
ned bution distribution by class liberated by class liberated grade
mineral gangue
(mm) xj Xj cj Cj tj £mj Xlib
mj £gj Xlib
gj uj tuj
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)
] +inf, 300 ] 0.0 100.0 0.0 100.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 300, 212 ] 1 13.6 86.4 10.1 89.9 3.2 0.0 0.0 1.8 0.4 13.3 3.3
] 212, 150 ] 2 11.7 74.7 9.5 80.4 3.5 0.0 0.0 12.9 2.4 10.2 4.0
] 150, 106 ] 3 10.1 64.6 8.8 71.6 3.8 0.0 0.0 34.0 5.5 6.8 5.6
] 106, 75 ] 4 8.7 55.9 7.9 63.6 3.9 0.0 0.0 54.8 7.6 4.1 8.3
] 75, 53 ] 5 7.6 48.3 7.1 56.6 4.0 0.6 0.1 87.1 10.5 1.2 24.5
] 53, 37 ] 6 6.5 41.8 6.4 50.1 4.1 7.7 1.6 92.3 9.9 0.8 33.9
] 37, 26 ] 7 5.7 36.1 5.5 44.6 4.2 21.3 3.9 95.2 8.6 0.4 41.7
] 26, 18 ] 8 4.9 31.2 5.0 39.7 4.2 37.2 6.1 97.0 7.9 0.3 47.5
] 18, 13 ] 9 4.2 27.0 3.8 35.9 4.2 51.5 6.5 98.0 6.1 0.2 51.4
-13 10 27.0 0.0 35.9 0.0 5.8 68.6 81.7 98.4 41.1 0.9 55.4



The results for the reference population are presented in

C j = a0 + a1 X j + a2 X 2j + a3 X 3j (3)
Table I. Figure 2 shows the variation of the liberation degrees
as a function of the relative particle size (Rj) for mineral and
where a0, a1, a2 and a3 are empirical coefficients which, in the
gangue and Figure 3 shows the mineral content in each size
following numerical examples, have been obtained from the
class (tj) and in the composite particles of each size class (tuj).
chalcopyrite flotation data of a complex sulfide ore from New
As a result of the empirical relationship which is assumed to
Brunswick [30] (see Table I and Figure 1). From Equation 3,
exist between ore and mineral cumulative size distributions
it is possible to calculate the non-cumulative mineral distri-
(see Figure 1), it is clear that the breakage is not strictly
bution in the size fraction j, cj as well as the mineral content
random (purely transgranular) and, as a consequence, the
of each size class tj (Table I):
finer fractions are richer in the mineral component. Also, as
c j = Cj -l - Cj (4) expected, the average mineral content of the middlings
(composite particles) is close to the ore mineral content when
cj t the liberation degree tends to zero, while it is close to 50%
tj = (5) when the liberation degree becomes large.

4. Selection of the fractions of liberated mineral and

gangue in each size class, £m,j and £g,j, respectively (also
named liberation degrees). These values are related to the
mineral grain size dm (75 mm in the reference population) and
the mineral content through an equation proposed by Wiegel
and Li [32]. The expression is detailed in Appendix 1.
From this information, the mass fraction uj of the mixed
particles containing unliberated mineral in each size class j
and their average mineral contents tu,j can be deduced

u j = 1 - t j £ m, j - 1- t j £ g, j ) (6)

tuj =
t j 1 - £ m, j )
1 - t j £ m, j - 1- t j £ g, j )
The overall mass fraction of mixed particles is
u= Âu x
j =1
j j (8) Fig. 2 Variation of the liberation degrees of the gangue and the mineral with
particle size.
where the value of u is 4.5% for the reference population.

Fig. 1. Mineral cumulative size distribution as a function of the ore cumu- Fig. 3. Average grades of particles (tj) and unliberated particles (tuj) as func-
lative size distribution. tions of particle size.



5. Selection of the composition distribution of the

composite particles.The middlings composition distribution
in each size class j is described by an incomplete Beta
function [33]. Two parameters aj and bj are selected for each
class j following the procedure described in Appendix 2. As
the particle size decreases, the composition distribution
evolves from a dissymmetrical one maximum curve to a two
maximum U shape curve [33]. The results are compatible
with an analysis performed by Leroux [34] for a
chalcopyrite ore.
Table II gives the mass composition distributions of the
reference population for the various size classes. There are 12
classes from pure gangue to pure mineral. Figure 4 gives the
3-D histogram of the middlings (composite particles
representing 35% of the particle population). The distribution
of the liberated particles in the various size classes, which
represent 65% of the total particle population (33% of the Fig. 4. 3-D histogram of the middlings distribution.
mineral and 67% of the gangue), is presented in Table I as Xlib
and Xlib
gi, respectively for mineral and gangue.
Table III summarizes the steps of the particle generation to 43% and 24 to 37%, respectively). As an example of the
process by showing the 17 parameters including the 9 variations of the feed properties, Table V gives the detailed
independent parameters aj and bj characterizing the middlings induced effects for the particles in the size range of 26 to 37
composition distribution (see Appendix 2) which are used mm, that play a major role in flotation. Although Table IV
to generate the 120 values of the particle mass fractions pi,j shows that the feed grade has only a slight impact on the total
(i = 1 to 12, j = 1 to 10). percentage of liberated mineral, it is noticeable in Table V that
Starting with the values defined for the reference the amount of middlings in the fines varies significantly even
population, the parameters are modified to emulate ore and more than for grain size changes. Also Table V shows that the
grinding process natural variations and thus produce percentage of pure mineral particles in the 26 to 37 mm particle
disturbed particle populations that can be subsequently size range containing the mineral phase is almost constant
submitted to the flotation process. Ore property variations are (around 10%), except when the mineral grain size is changed.
generated by changing the feed copper grade t (±0.5%) and
the mineral grain size dm (60, 75, 125 mm), while the Xo and
m parameters are changed to produce ore size distributions MODEL FOR FLOTATION SIMULATION
with d80 (80% cumulative passing size) ranging from 116 to
200 mm. The imposed variations are realistic as seen in Table The simulation model is used to generate pseudo-experi-
IV. The variations of the grain size and of the particle size mental batch flotation data which will be used subsequently
distribution induce significant effects on the overall mineral for the calibration of the usual representation models to be
liberation (the percentage of liberated mineral varies from 26 assessed (next section). Two mechanisms are considered to

Table II – Mass percentage of particles in the composition classes as a function of their size (100% in each row)
Composition classes
Size Size
(mm) classes 0 0 - 10 10 - 20 20 - 30 30 - 40 40 - 50 50 - 60 60 - 70 70 - 80 80 - 90 90 - 100 100
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)
] +inf, 300 ] 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 300, 212 ] 1 1.7 95.2 2.8 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 212, 150 ] 2 12.5 81.6 4.6 1.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 150, 106 ] 3 32.7 59.4 5.0 1.8 0.7 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 106, 75 ] 4 52.7 38.4 5.0 2.2 1.0 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 75, 53 ] 5 83.6 6.9 3.5 2.3 1.5 1.0 0.6 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
] 53, 37 ] 6 88.5 2.9 2.3 1.8 1.4 1.1 0.8 0.5 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.3
] 37, 26 ] 7 91.2 1.3 1.4 1.2 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9
] 26, 18 ] 8 92.9 1.0 0.7 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.4 0.4 0.3 1.6
] 18, 13 ] 9 93.9 1.0 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.7 2.2
-13 10 92.7 0.9 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 1.1 4.0



Table III – Population generation steps and input parameters

Step Number of parameters Parameters
Generation of the ore size distribution 2 m and X0
Selection of the ore mineral content 1 t
Generation of the size class mineral 4 a0, a1, a2 and a3
Selection of the liberated fractions 1 dm
Generation of the composition 9 9 independent parametersa and b
distribution of the middlings (see appendix 2)

Table IV – Properties of the disturbed particle populations and impact on % -74 mm (P74), % of liberated mineral
(ml) and % mineral in -74 mm (t74)
tCu tFeCuS2 m X0 dm d80 P74 ml t74
(%) (%) (mm) (mm) (mm) (%) (%) (%)
Reference 1.5 4.3 0.42 300.0 75.0 176.4 55.9 30.1 4.9
Grade - 1.0 2.9 0.42 300.0 75.0 176.4 55.9 29.9 3.3
Grade + 2.0 5.8 0.42 300.0 75.0 176.4 55.9 30.3 6.6
Part. size - - 1.5 4.3 0.37 212.0 75.0 116.0 68.1 36.7 4.7
Part. size - 1.5 4.3 0.33 300.0 75.0 152.6 63.3 35.8 4.8
Part. size + 1.5 4.3 0.62 212.0 75.0 147.9 52.5 24.7 5.0
Part. size ++ 1.5 4.3 0.55 300.0 75.0 199.9 46.7 23.8 5.1
Grain size - 1.5 4.3 0.42 300.0 60.0 176.4 55.9 26.0 4.9
Grain size + 1.5 4.3 0.42 300.0 125.0 176.4 55.9 43.0 4.9

Table V – Composition distribution in the 26-37 mm size class for the various disturbed populations and percentage of
liberated mineral within the population of particles containing mineral
Composition classes Liberated
Population 0 0 - 10 10 - 20 20 - 30 30 - 40 40 - 50 50 - 60 60 - 70 70 - 80 80 - 90 90 - 100 100 mineral
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)
Reference 91.2 1.3 1.4 1.2 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9 10.2
Grade - 94.1 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.0 0.6 10.2
Grade + 88.5 1.7 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 1.0 0.7 0.5 0.3 0.1 1.2 10.4
Part. size - - 91.4 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9 10.5
Part. size - 91.4 1.3 1.3 1.2 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.5 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9 10.5
Part. size + 91.2 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9 10.2
Part. size ++ 91.1 1.3 1.4 1.3 1.1 0.9 0.7 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.9 10.1
Grain size - 89.6 2.3 1.9 1.6 1.3 1.0 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.0 0.5 4.8
Grain size + 93.9 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 2.1 34.4

explain the transfer of particles from the flotation cell to the that the water phase chemistry (macro and micro hydrody-
concentrate: attachment to rising bubbles (“true flotation”) namics) are such that their effects on the attachment and
and transportation by the slurry entrained in the concentrate entrainment mechanisms are constant. The effect of changing
by the rising loaded air bubbles (“entrainment”). This is an particle size and composition would have an effect on the
oversimplified empirical description of the flotation kinetics slurry chemistry and bubble loading [41-44], but for the sake
since more complex bubble/particle interaction phenomena of simplicity, the reagent dosage and air flow rate are assumed
occur in both the slurry [7,34-36] and froth phases [8,37- 40] to be adjusted to maintain constant conditions.
of a flotation cell.
Although it is well known that both attachment and
Irreversible Attachment of Particles to Air Bubbles:
entrainment are reversible phenomena, they will be
considered here as irreversible mechanisms. Furthermore, the The kinetics of this pure flotation mechanism are assumed to be
focus will be put only on the effects of particle size [16-22] first order with respect to each (i, j) particle concentration in the
and composition on the flotation kinetics. Thus, it is assumed slurry. The mass flotation rate of particles (i, j) is thus given



Vij = kij mij = kij Mpij (9)
2 (13)
e = 0.5dmax
where M is the mass of particles in the cell, mij is the mass of
particles (i, j) in the slurry phase of the flotation cell, Vij is the where dmax is the particle size at which the function kj is
mass of particles (i, j) which float per unit of mass of solid maximum (see Figure 5). Figure 6 shows the 3-D size and
phase in the slurry phase and kij is the rate constant which is composition distribution of kij for the reference population.
a multiplicative function of the particle composition zi and
size dj
Irreversible Entrainment of Particles in the Flotation Froth:
kij = g ki k j (10)
The non-selective entrainment of particles into the
concentrate is due to unattached particles entrapped between
where g is an adjustable parameter which selects the overall
the loaded bubbles incoming at the slurry/froth interface. The
flotation rate amplitude. The ki function expresses the dependence
entrainment mechanisms are complex [47-50]; however here,
upon the volume composition zi [45, 46] according to
the overall rate is assumed to be proportional to the amount of
b -1
zia -1 (1 - zi ) water entrained by the loaded bubbles into the froth phase.
ki = (11) The entrainment coefficient is a function of the particle mass
B(a , b ) itself dependent on its size and composition. For a constant
where B is a Beta function (see Figure 5). In order to partially air bubbles flow and a constant water volume in the cell, the
take account of the effect of the particle surface composition, entrainment rate of particles is modelled by
particles which belong to the low mineral content classes Ê m n ˆ
(mass fractions 0.05 and 0.15) are assumed to contain a fixed
proportion of particles with locked mineral that do not emerge
Vije = Á k
i j
Vij + V w ˜ Eij

at the particle surface and thus behave as gangue particles.

The selected proportions of such particles are 50 and 25%, where Eij is the mass dependent entrainment coefficient (0 to
respectively, independent of the particle size. This is a rough 1), Vw represents the entrainment of water occurring when
approximation since it is predictable that locked minerals there is no load of particles attached to the bubbles and k
occur mainly in coarse particles. However, it would have represents the increased entrainment of water by the loaded
been difficult to quantify this effect of the particle size on the bubbles. The factor Eij is modeled as a S shape curve by
locked mineral content. q
Ê m ij ˆ
The kj function expresses the dependence upon -0.693Á ˜ (15)
Ë m 50 ¯
particle size according to the results of Colburn et al. [18]. Eij = 1 - e

Ê Ê d j ˆ 1.5 ˆ e where mij is the mass of a particle of size j and composition i

- d 2j
kj = e d 2j ÁÁ1 - Á ˜ ˜˜ e (12) considered as a sphere. Figure 7 shows the values of the
Ë Ë X o ¯ ¯ entrainment factor Eij as a function of the particle size and
composition. Due to the density difference between the
chalcopyrite and the gangue, for a given size, the mineral rich

Fig. 5. Values of the rate constant factors ki and kj as functions of particle Fig. 6. Distribution of the flotation rate constants for the reference popula-
size and composition. tion.






Mineral recovery



Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 4a
Model 4b
Model 5
Model 6
0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Time (min)
Fig. 7. Effect of particle size and composition on the entrainment coefficient.
Fig. 8. Mineral recovery for the reference population as simulated and rep-
resented by the six models.
particles are slightly less entrained in the froth than the
mineral poor particles.

Overall Flotation Model

The mass balance equation that describes the combined
actions of true flotation and entrainment in a semi-batch
process is written as

= -Vij - Vije (16)
Replacing the rate of flotation and entrainment by their values
defined above, Equation 16 can be integrated for the reference
population. The time variations of mineral and gangue
recoveries and concentrate grade as well as the usual recovery
grade plot are presented in Figures 8 to 11 for the reference
population of particles (the continuous lines). As usual, the
rate of mineral recovery rapidly decreases when the easily
Fig. 9. Gangue recovery for the reference population as simulated and rep-
floated particles have been recovered. After six minutes, the
resented by the six models.
overall mineral recovery exhibits a very slow regime because
the prevailing mechanism is an entrainment of slow floating
particles (very coarse or very fine particles as well as low Table VI – Mineral grade, time required and gangue
mineral content particles and particles containing completely recovery, at 70% mineral recovery (G70, T70 , Rg70)
locked minerals). G70 T70 Rg70
The simulation is also performed for the disturbed (%) (min) (%)
populations of particles (for populations that deviate from the
Reference 42.92 5.39 4.22
reference population). Table VI summarizes the results for the
Grade - 40.05 5.76 3.12
disturbed populations by giving the values of the concentrate
Grade + 45.21 5.08 5.20
grades (G70), the time required (T70) and the gangue recovery
Part. size - - 53.23 2.93 2.79
(Rg70) at 70% mineral recovery. As expected, the concentrate
Part. size - 50.20 3.64 3.15
grade is improved when the feed grade increases, the size
Part. size + 40.20 6.02 4.72
distribution is finer and the grain size is coarser. The T70 is not
Part. size ++ 29.27 13.45 7.62
very sensitive to the feed grade but increases when the
Grain size - 35.10 7.02 5.86
particles get coarser or the grain size finer. The Rg70 varies
Grain size + 56.28 3.52 2.46
strongly (a factor 3 from the lowest to the highest value)



representation models explicitly accounts for the particle

composition, since this property is assumed unavailable for
model calibration, as it is in a real case.

Flotation Models To Be Evaluated

Model 1: Three classes of particles are considered: floatable
mineral, gangue particles and unfloatable mineral particles.
Entrainment is not considered. The model requires three
parameters: the flotation rate constant of the floatable mineral
(km), the gangue (kg) and the fraction of unfloatable mineral
(fu). The model is simulated using, as for the simulation
model, the differential mass balance conservation equation
assuming first order processes for the mineral and the gangue.

Model 2: Model 1 is augmented to account for particle

entrainment. Since there is no detailed description of their
size and composition, the particles are all entrained in the
Fig. 10. Concentrate grade for the reference population as simulated and same proportion described by the unique parameter k of
represented by the six models. Equation 14 where Eij = 1 and Vw = 0.

Model 3: The complexity of Model 2 is increased by splitting

the floatable mineral particles into two classes: the fast (rate
constant kf) and the slow (rate constant ks) floating particles.
The initial fraction of fast floating mineral is f [3].
Entrainment is parameterized as in Model 2.

Model 4: In this model, the particle size is introduced

explicitly in the flotation and entrainment mechanisms
assuming, however, perfect liberation as in the above models
and identical size distributions for the gangue and the mineral.
The rate constants of the mineral and gangue particles are
modelled through the common function kj(d) defined by
Equation 12, independently parameterized for the mineral and
the gangue. The rate constants are respectively given

( m
km, j = g m k j dmax ) (17)

( g
kg, j = g g k j dmax ) (18)
Fig. 11. Grade recovery curves as simulated and represented by the six
models. where g and dmax are the two parameters to be adjusted for the
mineral and the gangue. The entrainment is defined by
because a significant part of the gangue is floated due to its Equations 14 and 15 where the parameter k must be adjusted
association with the floatable mineral, thus explaining the (Vw is set to zero). The entrainment coefficient curve is
concentrate grade variations. considered known (m50 and p are fixed).

Model 5: As in Model 4, Model 5 accounts for particle size.

MODELS FOR FLOTATION DATA The number of degrees of freedom is considerably increased
REPRESENTATION by allowing an independent flotation rate constant for each
mineral and gangue particle size (km,j, kg,j, for j = 1 to n),
Six flotation models are assessed for their ability to represent whereas Model 4 uses a four parameter empirical model to
the effects of particle population changes. They are evaluated represent the effects of size on the flotation rate constants. The
with respect to their performance to represent the flotation entrainment mechanism is identical to the one in Model 4.
responses obtained with the above simulation model. The six
models are of increasing complexity, i.e., use an increasing Model 6: To account for the variation of the flotation rate as a
number of adjustable parameters. However, none of these function of the particle composition, a rectangular distributed



Table VII – Parameters q of the evaluated flotation models

Model Mineral flotation Gangue flotation Entrainment Number of parameters
1 km, fu kg 3
2 km, fu kg k 4
3 kf, ks, j kg k 5
4 gm, dm,max gg, dg,max k 5
5 kmj kgj k 2n + 1
6 kmj(max), kmj (min) kgj k 3n + 1

rate constant [51] is defined for each size fraction. The distri- where the index j corresponds to the grade and recovery in the
bution is defined by its minimum and maximum values (kmin,j size class j. Since Model 4 also explicitly uses the particle size
and kmax,j). Such values are defined for the mineral particles, as a factor, its parameters are alternatively estimated by
while the gangue flotation follows a kinetic constant distri- Equation 20. The resulting models are designated Model 4a
bution identical to Model 5, thus allowing a total of 3n for Equation 19 and Model 4b for Equation 20.
degrees of freedom for this part of the model. The
entrainment mechanisms are modelled as in Models 4 and 5.

Calibration of the Six Flotation Models The purpose of the study is to evaluate the ability of flotation
The parameters (Table VII) of the above six models were Models 1 to 6 to properly represent flotation data and predict
calibrated using the data generated by the simulation model. The the effects due to changes in the particle population
data corresponds to a 12 minute semi-batch flotation test from properties. To assess their capability to represent experi-
which 14 measurements have been extracted. More experimental mental data, the performance of the six models, calibrated on
values are taken at the beginning of the experiment when the simulated data in the previous section, will be discussed with
process reaction is faster. The following least squares criterion is respect to concentrate grade and mineral recovery
used for estimating the model parameters: predictions. In order to evaluate their ability to predict the
flotation behaviour as a function of the particle population
properties, the reference population is varied as shown in
Ê Rm (t ) - Rˆ m (t ) ˆ Ê ˆ ˆ
14 Rg (t ) - Rg (t )
Table IV and the results predicted by the six models are
J1 (q ) = Â Á
1 ˜ + Â 1 Á ˜ compared to the pseudo-experimental values obtained
Ë Rm (t ) ¯ Ë Rg (t ) ¯ (19) through the simulation model. Quantitatively, the model
2 performances are evaluated using three interrelated indices:
Ê G(t ) - Gˆ (t ) ˆ
14 the representation index, the prediction index and the
+Â Á 1 ˜ parameter sensitivity index.
Ë G( t ) ¯
The representation index characterizes the aptitude of
where Rm,Rg and R̂m,R̂g are the mineral and gangue recoveries, the model to fit the simulated experimental results. It is
respectively simulated by the reference model and calculated calculated as the mean squared difference between the
by the model to be calibrated, and where G stands for the pseudo-experimental and the calculated results (either grade,
cumulative mineral grade of the concentrate. The calibration mineral or gangue recovery or both grade and mineral
criterion of Equation 19 is applied to Models 1 to 4. For recovery) of the semi-batch tests. The representation index is
Models 5 and 6 where the number of parameters is high, the calculated for the reference population as the average
mineral recoveries are assumed to be available for the deviation of the modeled values from the experimental results
individual size fractions, and, thus, their parameters are and it is expressed in the percentage of the variables used in
estimated by the following least squares criterion
2 Table VIII – Representation index values (%)
14 n
Ê Rm, j (t ) - Rˆ m, j (t ) ˆ
J2 (q ) = J1 (q ) + Â t =1 Â j =1 Á ˜ Model Grade Mineral Gangue Grade
Ë Rm, j (t ) ¯ recovery recovery recovery
2 1 11.7 7.2 24.6 28.2
14 n
Ê Rg, j (t ) - Rˆ g, j (t ) ˆ 2 1.5 3.8 1.9 4.5
+Â t =1 Â j =1 Á ˜ (20)
Ë Rg, j (t ) ¯ 3 0.6 1.9 1.8 2.7
4a 0.9 2.3 1.6 2.9
14 n
Ê GJ (t ) - Gˆ j (t ) ˆ 4b 4.7 3.9 12.1 13.6
+Â t =1 Â j =1 Á ˜ 5 6.3 2.1 12.0 13.7
Ë G j (t ) ¯ 6 15.3 5.2 28.9 33.1



the representation criterion (see results in Table VIII). Figures is completely liberated has a serious impact on the model
8 to 11 also help to assess the representation ability of the six prediction. Figure 12 gives an example of the ability of the
models by showing the time variations of the mineral and models to predict gangue recovery considering, for instance,
gangue recovery, as well as the concentrate grade and the an increase in the mineral grain size. Models that take particle
usual grade recovery curves. size distribution into account show only a slightly better
Table VIII and Figures 8 to 11 show that Model 1 response to particle size variations than models that are size
produces strongly biased results, mainly due to the neglected independent. Again, as in the conclusions of the represen-
particle entrainment which cannot be compensated by an tation ability results, Models 2, 3 and 4a can be considered as
adjustment of the flotation rate. Model 2 corrects this problem, reasonable choices considering the small number of
but does not offer enough flexibility in the flotation kinetics to parameters to be adjusted.
fit the pseudo-experimental results. Models 3 and 4a have The sensitivity index characterizes the variability of the
satisfying representation ability. The calibration criterion used model parameters when the feed particle population is
for Models 4b to 6 does not allow the models to adequately fit disturbed. It is the relative variance of the model parameters
the pseudo-experimental data. The flexibility allowed for calculated simultaneously for all the parameters of a model. It
taking account of the particle size is not sufficient to solve the is calculated either separately for each type of disturbance or
problems related to the inability of all models to fit the for all the disturbances together. Table X gives the sensitivity
behaviour of the unliberated particles, which is characterized index values. It should be sufficiently large to respond to
by the gangue recovery and the concentrate grade. changes of the feed particle properties, but sufficiently small
The prediction index characterizes the ability of the to avoid too high a sensitivity to experimental changes. A
models to react to changes in the feed particle population. The high sensitivity usually means a poor reliability of the model
models are calibrated on the reference population and then used
to predict the flotation results for a disturbed population. To
isolate the ability of the model to predict the trend, the effect of
its inherent representation performance is removed from the Model 1
Model 2
index. For that purpose, the sum of squared deviations for the Model 3
Model 4a
reference population is subtracted from the sum of squared Model 4b
Model 5
deviations between the predicted results and the pseudo-experi- Model 6

mental results for the disturbed populations. Again, the index is 0.1
Gangue recovery

presented as a mean squared deviation converted into the

percentage of the predicted variables. Table IX gives the values
of the prediction indices for the six models. The index is
calculated for each type of disturbance and also jointly for all
the disturbed populations. The prediction error indices are 0.05
relatively small because they have been corrected for the
inherent representation inability of the models.
On an average basis, Table IX shows that the mineral
recovery is reasonably well predicted by all the models.
However, the prediction error is higher for the concentrate 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12
grade. This is mainly due to the inability of all models to Time (min)
predict the gangue recovery. The problem is related to the
presence of mixed particles of gangue and valuable mineral. Fig. 12. Prediction of the gangue recovery for an increase of the mineral
Since gangue is the dominating phase, the assumption that it grain size.

Table IX – Prediction index values (%) (Rm stands for mineral recovery, Rg for gangue recovery and
G for mineral grade)
Disturbed populations
Model Grade Part. Size Grain size All
Rm Rg G Rm Rg G Rm Rg G Rm Rg G
1 1.6 18.0 8.1 4.3 6.0 4.3 5.7 19.2 8.2 3.9 14.4 6.9
2 0.2 7.4 3.9 4.2 5.2 4.9 4.0 16.1 9.2 2.8 9.6 6.0
3 0.3 7.5 4.0 4.3 5.3 4.9 4.0 16.2 9.3 2.8 9.7 6.1
4a 0.3 7.3 3.8 3.5 15.4 5.3 3.9 16.3 9.4 2.6 13.0 6.2
4b 3.1 12.1 5.9 3.2 8.4 3.2 4.4 17.1 9.1 3.6 12.5 6.1
5 1.2 12.0 5.7 2.2 9.6 3.4 3.7 16.7 9.0 2.4 12.8 6.0
6 1.2 11.9 5.7 2.2 9.5 3.4 3.7 16.9 9.2 2.4 12.8 6.1



Table X – Values of the model sensitivity indices (%) some conclusions about the model ability to properly respond
Disturbed populations to changes of particle properties are formulated.
Model The analysis was carried out first by developing a
Grade Part. Size Grain Size All method to generate binary particle population of varying
1 13.3 6.7 15.0 12.7 mineral content, mineral grain size, liberation degree and
2 9.7 9.0 16.1 12.9 particle size and composition distributions and second by
3 8.5 13.5 15.4 14.7 developing a simulator of semi-batch flotation tests using a
4 8.3 14.3 15.2 15.1 particle size dependent and composition dependent flotation
4 8.0 12.0 13.6 13.4 rate constant and a particle entrainment to froth depending on
5 37.3 49.6 55.6 96.6 the particle mass and the bubble load. Then, six flotation
6 36.2 52.9 44.2 77.1 models were evaluated starting from a simple model that does
not consider entrainment up to a model of distributed flotation
rate constants in each size class. The following observations
parameters and consequently a low reliability of the extrap- can be made:
olated results using the flotation models. It is clear from Table 1. Entrainment must be properly modelled since indirect
X that Models 5 and 6 have to be avoided: their parameters modelling through gangue flotation does not predict
are too sensitive and thus not reliable for studies involving accurately gangue recovery and concentrate grade.
extrapolation outside the domain of calibration. 2. Even with a suitable entrainment model, the gangue
It is not easy to compare the results of this study to behaviour is not completely well modelled since usual
previously published papers comparing the performances of flotation models are unable to consider that gangue is floated
various flotation model structures because they were focussed at the same time as mineral due to the associations that exist
on the ability of the models to fit experimental data containing between gangue and mineral in unliberated particles. Since
inherent measurement errors [26,27,52,53]. In the present study, these associations are sensitive to the ore mineral content,
the emphasis is placed upon the structural prediction capability grain size and particle size distributions, the models are not
of the models when submitted to changes in the particle able to predict correctly gangue recovery and thus concentrate
population in the absence of experimental errors. In previously grade.
mentioned papers, the problem was mainly to decide whether 3. Models that account for particle size give slightly better
models with distributed rate constants are better than models results, but require numerous additional parameters which are
involving discrete rate distribution (slow and fast floating quite sensitive to experimental variations and then are not
particles, for instance) for flotation data representation. In the reliable for extrapolation.
paper by Dowling et al. [27], it was concluded that rectangular 4. Entrainment and unliberated particle flotation should be
rate constant distributions are recommended since the considered in a flotation model. However, since both
parameters fitted to the experimental data are statistically phenomena are difficult to track, it is recommended, in the
significant. In the paper of Kelly and Carlson [52], the absence of suitable experimental information, to use parsimo-
conclusions of Dowling et al. [27] were called into question by niously parameterized models such as Model 3.
discussing the relative importance of systematic and random
errors in flotation data representation. In the paper by Polat and
Chander [26], the representation with fast and slow floating APPENDIX A: MINERAL AND GANGUE
particles was clearly found more efficient than a rectangular LIBERATION DEGREES
distributed rate constant. Finally, in the paper by Ferreira et al.
[53], the rate parameters are distributed as two superimposed The fraction of liberated mineral and gangue are given by
Gaussian distributions of rates of flotation. This model was Wiegel and Li [32]
found more efficient for the simulation of circuits than the
models with three or four discrete classes of floatability. As in as for Rj>1
this study, the role of middlings is mentioned as a major problem 3 2
when trying to represent flotation data as if the minerals were
liberated. This may become more critical when simulating £ a, j =
( R - 1) F
j a, j ( ) ( )
+ 3 Rj - 1 Fa2, j + 3 Rj - 1 Fa4, j + Fa8, j (A.1)
flotation circuits with recycling since the contribution of the Fa, j / Rj3
middlings is increased compared to batch experiments.
and for Rj<1
Ê 1 ˆ
CONCLUSIONS Á +1˜ log Fa , j
Ë Rj ¯ (A.2)
£a, j = 10
The objective of this study was to analyze, by simulation
methods, the implications of the assumption used in most where a stands for mineral or gangue and Rj is the ratio of the
usual flotation models that minerals are perfectly liberated. average mineral grain size (dm) in the continuous gangue
Methods were developed to assess model performance and matrix to the particle size



dm The particle composition is discretized into ten main

Rj = (A.3) classes (ti=0.05, 0.15, 0.25…0.95) and the first class is again
dj discretized into ten classes (ti=0.005, 0.015…0.095) in order
to be able to accommodate for the low content of mineral in
and where the size (dm) is equal to 75 mm in the reference
the ore. The aj is selected and the bj calculated according to
population. From the liberated fractions of mineral and
Equation B.4 in order to represent properly the typical
gangue and their respective grades in the population, the
evolution of the composition distribution from the
distribution of the liberated mineral and gangue particles in
asymmetrical bell shape for coarse particles to the
the size classes (xlib lib
mj, x gj ) can be calculated.
asymmetrical U shape for the fine particles. Subsequently, the
In Equations 6 and 7, Fa,j is the volume fraction of
aj values are slightly corrected in such a way that the
mineral (for the calculation of £m,j) and the volume fraction of
reconstructed mineral content from the discretized
gangue (for the calculation of £g,j) in the size class j. Fm,j and
composition classes is consistent with the value of the mineral
Fg,j can be obtained from
content of the unliberated particles, such that the following
tj constraint is verified
Fm, j =
tj 1- tj ( )
ÂF z
ij i = tu , j (B.5)
rm rg The values of aj and bj are shown as functions of particle size
in Figure 13.
Fg, j = 1 - Fm, j (A.5)

where rm and rg are the specific masses of mineral and




The middlings composition distribution of the jth size class

particles is constructed using an incomplete Beta function
B(a,b) as suggested by Barbery [33]. The Beta function is
related to the Gamma function G by
G (a )G ( b )
B(a , b ) = (B.1)
G (a + b )

Fig. 13. Values of the parameters a and b of the Beta function describing
G ( x ) = e - t t x -1adt
Ú (B.2) the composition distribution of the middlings.

The density distribution of the particles of mineral volume

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