What is Process mineralogy?

Process Mineralogy is the practical application of mineralogical knowledge to aid mineral exploration, and to predict and optimise how an ore can best be mined and processed. It bridges mineral processing and traditional mineralogy, and is a specialisation within the field of applied mineralogy. Process Mineralogy is applied in areas such as geometallurgy, ore characterisation, process design and optimisation, driven by today’s increasingly complex ore bodies and the rising pressure to reduce operational cost. Responsible environmental management also demands a greater understanding of the minerals and their textures to reduce risk.

The aim of process mineralogy is to identify, diagnose and predict processing characteristics of an ore that are mineralogically controlled or influenced. From this we understand either the benefits that can be harnessed, or the limitations that need to be catered for. The mineralogy and, most critically the texture, of an ore dictates how the ore can be mined and processed optimally, as well as highlighting potential environmental ramifications in doing so.

Process mineralogy is utilised in all stages of the mining cycle, including; exploration, mine planning, mineral processing, tailings management, and metallurgy. It is closely linked to geometallurgy, being fed directly in to a geometallurgical predictive model, which spans the whole process.

Rock and mineral properties that can be identified through process mineralogy techniques include; gangue and target mineralogy, key element deportment, grain size and shape, deleterious minerals and elements (for example swelling clays, refractory minerals, arsenic…) and mineral associations.

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