'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised

New flotation cell technology invented by a professor from Australia’s University of Newcastle and developed by Danish mining engineering firm FLSmidth has secured a €5.4 million (US$6.4 million) European Union-backed upscaling grant.
'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised 'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised 'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised 'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised 'REFLUX' flotation cell project to be commercialised

Preliminary results from the pilot-scale studies indicate that the RFC technology can save up to 20% water and energy.

The ‘REFLUX' Flotation Cell (RFC) technology invented by the university's Professor Kevin Galvin, uses a new internal design to achieve higher throughputs, a broader particle size distribution and recovery of finer particles.

RFC has been successfully demonstrated at an FLSmidth plant on copper ore particles. Preliminary results from the pilot-scale studies indicated that it can save up to 30% capital investments and use 20% less water and energy.

RFC has been awarded the annual EIT RawMaterials KAVA Upscaling Projects grant, with the commercialisation project set to run from 1 June 2021 until 1 June 2024 - it was taken to this stage by a consortium of mine sites, chemical companies and universities led by FLSmidth.

Under the EIT upscaling project, the RFC technology will be scaled up to the EU's Technology readiness level (TRL) 7-8 and demonstrated in the field at a KGHM copper ore mine and at an LKAB iron ore mine.

TRL 7 is "system prototype demonstration in operational environment", while TRL 8 is "system complete and qualified". 

The EIT aims to commercialise the RFC technology during the three-year project through sales of full-scale plants. This will take place if the demonstrations prove that a return on investment is possible in 3-5 years and that environmental impacts are lowered.

The consortium behind the project is led by FLSmidth and includes two mine sites (KGHM Polska Miedz Spólka Akcyjna in Poland and Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara AB (LKAB) in Sweden), two universities (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Helmholtz Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf University), the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and several external advisors. The University of Newcastle in Australia and Professor Kevin Galvin, will act as external advisors.

In a statement, FLSmidth said that flotation was a key process area that impacts upstream comminution and downstream dewatering, and that there there is "huge potential" to save energy and resources through innovations in flotation process technology.

"We are very grateful to EIT RawMaterials for this grant award. The RFC is already proving that it can operate successfully outside of the limitations experienced by traditional open tank flotation systems. The technology has potential across various commodities and flotation applications," said Manfred Schaffer, president of mining at FLSmidth.