On the Management of Gangue Minerals in the Flotation of Platinum Group Minerals

  • Cyril O’Connor
  • Jenny Wiese
  • Kirsten Corin
  • Belinda McFadzean


The Bushveld Complex of South Africa contains almost 90% of the world’s reserves of platinum group minerals (PGMs). In the flotation of PGMs, there are significant challenges arising from the need to treat ever-decreasing grades of the relevant ore deposits. The major challenge in the flotation of these ore bodies is the control and management of the gangue minerals, particularly silicates such as orthopyroxene, plagioclase feldspar, and pyroxene which are often rimmed with talc which makes them naturally floatable. It has been shown that various polysaccharide depressants such as CMC and guar have different properties in terms of depressing the gangue minerals. Since the PGMs are often associated with sulphides, copper sulphate is widely used as an activator in PGM flotation but can inadvertently activate the gangue minerals as well as reduce the recovery of PtTe2 which accounts for up to 40% of the Pt in the Platreef ore body. Depressants also reduce the mass of solids reporting to the froth and can thus destabilise the froth. This effect on the froth can be mitigated by using higher frother dosages or water of higher ionic strength. Reducing chromite recovery is of critical importance since high levels may negatively affect the downstream smelting process. Chromite recoveries can however be reduced through the application of gravity separation or reducing entrainment through reduced water recovery. In summary, due care needs to be taken to carry out site test work to develop an optimum ratio of collector, frother, activator, and depressant to ensure that the highest grades and recoveries of the PGEs are obtained while reducing depressant dosage as much as possible.


Platinum group minerals Depressants Copper sulphate Chromite 


Funding Information

This study was financially supported by the following companies: Impala Platinum, Anglo American, Lonmin.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyril O’Connor
    • 1
  • Jenny Wiese
    • 1
  • Kirsten Corin
    • 1
  • Belinda McFadzean
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Minerals Research, Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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