E&MJ examines some notable new flotation technologies that offer the prospect of improved recovery with lower energy costs
Energy availability is one of the bedrock requirements for successful mine startup, along with water, ore, labor and transportation access, to name just a few. And, like many of these necessities, electrical energy can be expensive, unreliable and increasingly subject to intense competition from other industries. A mine’s energy usage may have a social component as well; drawing large amounts of electricity from a stressed national grid, or building a captive power plant that exclusively serves the mine site without providing power for local consumption, for example, can lead to increased friction with community leaders and government regulators. On a global basis, the extent of a mining operation’s growing — or shrinking — energy footprint is often used as a measure of its owner’s environmental and social consciousness.
These trends and concerns make energy-efficiency improvements in mineral processing an attractive and often necessary goal — and one of those rare instances in which cutting back results in getting ahead. Accordingly, it’s tempting to look for large-scale savings involving major process changes, but these can be daunting in terms of capital expense, production interruption and performance risk. In today’s business environment where mining companies are pursuing mostly incremental, affordable production improvements, the availability of similarly incremental energy-conservation measures fits hand-in-glove with the prevailing investment climate.