Modelling of water quality impact on flotation performance

Modelling of water quality impact on flotation performance

Sep 29, 2022 | Process simulation

Water scarcity pushes the mining industry to review its mineral processing practices.  Beyond the reduction of water consumption, the recycling of water is gaining importance. This trend is not without consequence on the performance of a plant. Process modelling allows to assess different water management strategies without expansive plant trials. Discover in this paper a modelling approach of water quality impact on flotation performance of a Cu-Ni plant. Potential of improvement are also proposed. An article presented at the IMPC Asia Pacific 2022, Melbourne (Australia).

Process modelling of a Cu-Ni flotation plant

Water management is a key strategic driver of mineral processing plant operations. Its importance keeps increasing along with global economic and environmental concerns, leading to the need of reusing process waters within plants. To address this issue in the frame of the European project ITERAMS, a prototype model of flotation plant that accounts for impact of water quality on process performance was developed as a tool to simulate recycling scenarios. It gathers modelling tasks to provide insight in water impacted/involved operation: flotation and water treatment unit operations.

The chosen technologies for water treatment are dissolved air flotation for fines removal and ion exchange resins for sulphate removal. The influence of water quality upon flotation is assessed via the determination of empirical laws of kinetics variation depending on water composition, using the first order kinetic model with ultimate recovery. These unit models were first developed separately with specific focus. They were then adapted and integrated into a global plant model, calibrated with plant survey and lab experiment data. The obtained model simulates an industrial Cu-Ni flotation plant. It gives plant behaviour trends depending on the water treatment implementation.

Water quality impact and potential of improvement

The presented case illustrates the importance not to limit the study of water impact on process performance to lab or pilot scale survey, but to integrate their results into a plant scale model to predict behaviour which cannot be easily deduced from the experimental work only. Building this prototype also enabled to highlight the main weaknesses of the modelling approach and to suggest improvement opportunities to enhance the reliability of the simulator results. The paper describes the model structure and the method for calibration using a mix of plant and lab data. It presents the main results of the performed simulations.


  • Sampling campaigns
  • Modelling approach
    • Water treatment (dissolved air flotation, ion exchange resins)
    • Flotation
  • Global model implementation with USIM PAC process simulator
    • Case calibration
    • Determination of relationship between flotation kinetics and water quality
  • Simulation results
  • Perspectives


Wish to discuss modelling of water quality with an author?

We develops process models for any kind of mineral and metallurgical processing plants. Our approach is phenomenological approach and comprises sampling audits, data reconciliation as well as process simulation. Our fields of intervention are very varied and concern all types of ores and all unit operations used in mineral processing.

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