Direct Flotation of Niobium Oxide Minerals from Carbonatite Niobium Ores

  • Author / Creator
    Ni, Xiao
  • Currently the recovery of niobium oxide minerals from carbonatite niobium ores relies on the use of non-selective cationic collectors. This leads to complicated process flowsheets involving multiple desliming and multiple reverse flotation stages, and low niobium recovery. In this research, anionic collectors that are capable of strong chemisorption on the niobium minerals were studied with the objective of directly floating the niobium oxide minerals from the carbonatite ores. In the flotation of both high purity minerals and Niobec ores, it was shown that the combination of hydroxamic acid and sodium metaphosphate was an effective reagent scheme for the direct flotation of niobium oxide from its ores. Batch flotation on the Niobec Mill Feed showed that over 95% of niobium oxide was recovered into a rougher concentrate that was less than 47% of the original feed mass. Preliminary cleaning tests showed that the reagent scheme could also be used to upgrade the rougher concentrate, although the depression of iron oxide minerals required further study. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic (XPS) measurement results confirm that OHA (octyl hydroxamic acid) could chemisorb on pyrochlore surface while only physically adsorb on calcite, judging by the chemical shifts of electron binding energies in the elements in both OHA and the mineral surfaces. When hydroxamic acid was adsorbed on calcite surface, the binding energies of the N 1s electrons, at 400.3 eV, did not shift. However, after adsorption on pyrochlore, the N 1s binding energy peak split into two peaks, one at a binding energy of around 399 eV, representing chemically adsorbed OHA, the other at between 400 and 401 eV. The experimental data suggested a strong chemisorption of the OHA on pyrochlore surface in the form of a vertical head-on orientation of the OHA molecules so that the pyrochlore was strongly hydrophobized even at low OHA concentrations, followed by possibly randomly oriented physisorbed OHA molecules. On the other hand, OHA only physisorbed on calcite forming a horizontally oriented monolayer of OHA. The results explain the observed selectivity of hydroxamic acid in the flotation of niobium oxide minerals from carbonatite niobium ores.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2013
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Specialization
    • Materials Engineering
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Choi, Phillip (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Yeung, Tony (Chemical and Materials Engineering)
    • Tao, Daniel (Mining Engineering)
    • Bhattacharjee, Subir (Mechanical Engineering)
    • Liu, Qingxia (Chemical and Materials Engineering)