Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Chemical Engineering


S. Komar Kawatra


Iron ore is one of the most important ores in the world. Over the past century, most mining of iron ore has been focused on magnetite (Fe3O4). As the name suggests, magnetite is magnetic in nature and is easily separated from gangue (unwanted) minerals through magnetic separation processes. Unfortunately, the magnetite ore bodies are diminishing. Because of this, there has been a recent drive to pursue technology that can economically separate hematite (Fe2O3) from its gangue minerals as hematite is a much more abundant source of iron. Most hematite ore has a very small liberation size that is frequently less than 25μm. Beneficiation of any ore with this fine of a liberation size requires advanced processing methods and is seldom pursued.

A single process, known as selective flocculation and dispersion, has been successfully implemented at a plant scale for the beneficiation of fine liberation size hematite ore. Very little is known about this process as it was discovered by the U.S. Bureau of Mines by accident. The process is driven by water chemistry and surface chemistry modifications that enhance the separation of the hematite from its gangue minerals. This dissertation focuses on the role of water chemistry and process reagents in this hematite beneficiation process. It has been shown that certain ions, including calcium and magnesium, play a significant role in the process. These ions have a significant effect on the surface chemistry as reported by zeta potential studies. It was shown that magnesium ions within the process water have a more significant impact on surface chemistry than calcium ions due to steric hindrance effects at the hematite surface. It has also been shown that polyacrylic acid dispersants, if used in the process, can increase product quality (increase iron content, decrease phosphorus content, decrease silica content) substantially.

Water, surface and reagent chemistry experiments were performed at a laboratory, pilot, and full plant scale during the course of this work. Many of the conclusions developed in the laboratory and pilot scale were found to be true at the full plant scale as well. These studies are the first published in history to develop theories of water chemistry and surface chemistry interactions at a full plant scale.