Cobalt is a bluish-gray, shiny, brittle metallic element. Its atomic number is 27 and its symbol is Co. It belongs to a group of elements called the transition metals. It has magnetic properties like iron.
Cobalt producing countries
Principal cobalt producing countries include Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Canada, Cuba, Australia, and Russia. The United States uses about one-third of total world consumption. Cobalt resources in the United States are low grade and production from these deposits is usually not economically feasible.
During Mining, large quantities of low-grade ores need to be excavated to get the desired grades. The company has installed functional Concentrator with a view to optimize the long run mining cost by making use of low grade minerals, which otherwise are uneconomical to process.
Cobalt hardrock mining
Cobalt was a training ground, the birthplace of hardrock mining in Canada. The ore was close to surface, which meant that men with limited experience could prospect and begin mining, and then hone their skills as the mines went deeper. Those who learned their trade in Cobalt moved north, discovering gold in Kirkland Lake and Timmins and further afield in Canada and around the world.
Copper ore concentrating
The copper ore usually contains a large amount of dirt, clay and a variety of non-copper bearing minerals. The first step is to remove some of this waste material. This process is called concentrating and is usually done by the floatation method. Once copper has been concentrated it can be turned into pure copper cathode in two different ways – Leaching & Electro-winning or Smelting and Electrolytic.
Copper-cobalt flotation separation
Several methods exist for the separation of cobalt from copper and nickel. They depend on the concentration of cobalt and the exact composition of the used ore.
A rapid flotation method for cobalt and copper separation and enrichment from fresh waters is established. A differential copper-cobalt flotation separation which begins with selective copper flotation by raising the slurry pH to 10 with lime and using a dithiophosphate copper collector. The tails produced in the first differential flotation step is followed by a pyrite and pyrrhotite flotation stage using xanthate and MBT, leaving the cobalt minerals in the flotation cell tails.
Cobalt is floated using a combination of xanthate and dithiophosphate and/or MBT. Depending on the cobalt mineralization, use of an activator such as copper sulphate.
Under the bulk flotation process, a bulk Cu-Co flotation concentrate is produced at natural pH with xanthate, dithiophosphate and/or MBT, particularly if the copper mineralization is chalcocite. Copper is separated from the cobalt in the bulk concentrate by raising the pH up to at least 11 which depresses the cobalt minerals. Cobalt depression can be enhanced by small cyanide dosages.
Recovery from copper-cobalt oxide concentrates
The ore is comminuted and the cobalt rich oxides are separated by froth flotation. The cobalt-bearing concentrate is then mixed with lime and coal, and then melted in a reducing atmosphere. Iron and lighter impurities float to the surface as solid dross or are expelled from the melt as gas. The remaining liquid is composed of a heavier copper smelt containing approximately 5% cobalt that is processed for its copper and a lighter slag that is approximately 40% cobalt that is further refined by hydrometallurgical and electrolytic processing. Concentrations of cobalt oxide (Co3O4) may also be reduced by the aluminothermic reaction or with carbon in a blast furnace.
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