Practical processes for the efficient recovery of metals and minerals from ores are a fundamental requirement for the health of any industrial society. These processes have been developed in response to declining ore grades, the need for new materials, increased environmental awareness, and changing market requirements. Much of this progress was achieved by scientific inquiry into the nature and behavior of minerals and ores, aided by the development of new instruments and research techniques. The characterization of minerals according to their behavior during treatment is called process mineralogy, a combination of classical mineralogy and process engineering. It provides detailed knowledge of minerals to guide their separation, purification, and recovery.
Much as a detective gathers and evaluates different kinds of evidence to solve a crime, Hazen’s professional staff applies its knowledge and skills in process mineralogy to answer metallurgical questions, such as the causes of unexpectedly low grades or poor yield of product from a process. We use optical microscopy, electron probe microanalysis, and x-ray diffraction analysis to uncover and evaluate the evidence. These diagnostic techniques are augmented by chemical analyses and physical separation procedures based on specific gravity, magnetic susceptibility, electrical conductivity, and flotation properties. Process mineralogy can also provide insight into reaction mechanisms and can guide research and development programs. Hazen specializes in the field of process mineralogy. We have the skilled staff and equipment necessary to develop optimum processes for new ore deposits and to improve the profitability of operating commercial facilities. The following examples from actual cases illustrate how process mineralogy solves process problems.