Microwave assisted breakage of metallic sulfide bearing ore

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



A refractory ore body located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula contains high concentrations of nickel and copper chiefly occurring in the minerals pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, and pentlandite. Refractory ore bodies are difficult to treat by conventional mineral processing methods so microwave pre-treatment of the ore is employed to increase metallic-particle/host rock liberation by making use the differential thermal expansion properties of the mineral phases that absorb microwave energy. The Curie temperature measurement of metallic-bearing particles is in agreement with the known value for pyrrhotite occurring at 325°C. A nickel-rich iron sulfide mineral is found to be in occurrence and also appears to be magnetic under BSE imaging. It is shown the ore particles heat rapidly when exposed to microwave radiation for short durations of time mainly due to the high concentration of ferromagnetic mineral phases. Rapid heating causes thermal expansion of constituent mineral phases that produce cracks within ore particles. SEM imaging shows fracture occurring along grain boundaries and throughout host rock matrix. Ball milling experiments show an increased grindability of the ore resulting in a decrease in work index values.

Publication Title

TMS Annual Meeting