The economic viability of a mine can be determined by the microscopic characteristics of the ore, including the mineral abundance, the grain size and the degree of ore mineral liberation. It is essential to be able to characterise these parameters rapidly and accurately, providing the data that geologists, mineralogists and mining engineers can use during mine feasibility studies and process optimisation. Energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS) in the scanning electron microscope (SEM) is the optimum tool for such process mineralogy, providing fast and accurate results with a high degree of automation. An SEM-EDS mineral liberation system can analyse both polished core sections and particulates from feed material and tailings, providing information that will improve recovery and lessen any environmental impact. Importantly, recent EDS detector developments have increased X-ray collection efficiency and throughput, making it possible to characterise samples in a matter of minutes. The image shows part of an analysis of particulate feed material from a zinc ore and the associated liberation curves for some of the zinc-bearing minerals. These data are then used to refine the processing parameters resulting in a more efficient extraction process and less waste.
The above images show a phase map and ZnS liberation curves from the feed material in a zinc mine processing plant, analysed using the Oxford Instruments INCA Mineral EDS system
Our x-ray sources allow tools to deliver fast an accurate in-the-field analysis of mining ore chemistry to aid in in exploration and sorting of valuable minerals and metals. It’s not just understanding the chemistry of rocks and minerals on Earth which is important. Our x-ray sources are also launch-certified and play a vital role in understanding the chemistry of extraterrestrial material as part of ongoing explorer programs.