Geometallurgical Evaluation of the Nkout (Cameroon) and Putu (Liberia) Iron Ore Deposits
Anderson, Kelvin Frederick Esebewa
Date: 29 April 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Earth Resources
The Nkout (Cameroon) and Putu (Liberia) oxide facies iron ore deposits comprise fresh magnetite banded iron formation (BIF) at depth, which weathers towards the surface, forming high grade martite–goethite ores. This study aimed to improve the mineralogical understanding of these deposits in order to predict their metallurgical responses. ...
The Nkout (Cameroon) and Putu (Liberia) oxide facies iron ore deposits comprise fresh magnetite banded iron formation (BIF) at depth, which weathers towards the surface, forming high grade martite–goethite ores. This study aimed to improve the mineralogical understanding of these deposits in order to predict their metallurgical responses. It concentrated on developing the QEMSCAN® technique and testing its application to these ore types, but also used a variety of other analysis methods. The QEMSCAN® species identification protocol was developed to include three goethite entries: goethite/limonite, phosphorus-bearing and aluminium-bearing goethite. QEMSCAN® was also used to distinguish between the iron oxides using their backscattered electron signals. To test the correlation between the mineralogy and metallurgical characteristics, magnetic separations were carried out. The samples were divided into 4 main groups based on their whole rock Fe content, determined by XRF analysis, and their degree of weathering: enriched material, weathered magnetite itabirite, transitional magnetite itabirite and magnetite itabirite. Quartz and Al oxide and hydroxide minerals such as gibbsite are the major gangue minerals in the magnetite BIF and martite–goethite ores respectively. From the QEMSCAN® analysis it was concluded that the iron oxides are closely associated and liberation of them individually is poor. Liberation increases when they are grouped together as iron oxide. Chamosite concentrations > 6 wt. % significantly lower liberation of the iron oxides. From the metallurgical testing, it was concluded that iron oxide modal mineralogy gives an indication of iron recovery but other QEMSCAN® data such as mineral association and liberation could be important especially if the iron oxide minerals are not liberated. Grain size and instrument characteristics also affect recovery of iron minerals. There is no evidence to show that there is any structural control on the BIF mineralisation at Nkout because metamorphism has significantly affected the lithological characteristics. The BIF mineralised zones occur as stacks with no particular stratigraphic relationship. Alteration and stratigraphy are the main controls on the martite–goethite ores. These results are applicable to most other BIFs so that as direct shipping ores are exhausted, the approach used here can help to develop the lower grade portions of the deposits.
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