Rejecting phosphorus in hematitic iron ore streams: Is flotation the best approach?

Document Type


Publication Date



Department of Chemical Engineering


It is widely known that steel made from iron ore pellets high in phosphorus is brittle. Removal of phosphorus from iron ores such as hematite has proven to be difficult. The majority of research on phosphorus removal from hematite ores has been focused on flotation. The purpose of this study was to assess phosphorus distribution under current operations at an existing hematite concentrator and determine how efficient the plant is at removing phosphorus. Objectives included: (1) Perform a phosphorus balance at an operating plant to assess phosphorus distribution under current operations; (2) Determine phosphorus removal efficiency of each separating unit and (3) Perform a quantitative liberation analysis to determine max phosphorus removal by physical means. Liberation was quantitatively determined using wet high intensity magnetic separation (WHIMS) to separate iron ore from liberated apatite (and other nonmagnetic compounds). It was observed that 61.2% of the total phosphorus entering Plant F was rejected during current operations. The desliming process was the most efficient step at removing phosphorus (45.1% P removed), whereas the flotation step was much less effective (16.1% P removed). Liberation analyses indicated that the deslime thickener may have been more efficient at removing phosphorus than the flotation circuit due to the greater abundance of liberated phosphorus in the deslime thickener feed. The scavenger returns stream was identified as having a high concentration of phosphorus and a possible point of phosphorus removal. However, liberation analyses indicated that only 32.4% of the total phosphorus in the stream was liberated. Grinding the scavenger returns to 80% passing 5.2 ìm increased the amount of liberated phosphorus in the stream to 70.4%.

Publication Title

Minerals and Metallurgical Processing