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Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

On-line version ISSN 2411-9717
Print version ISSN 2225-6253

J. S. Afr. Inst. Min. Metall. vol.110 n.2 Johannesburg Feb. 2010




Characteristics, recovery and provenance of rutile from the Namakwa Sands heavy mineral deposit, South Africa



A. Rozendaal; C. Philander; C. Carelse

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland, South Africa




The Namakwa Sands heavy mineral deposit is located along the West Coast of South Africa and the mine is a world class producer of high quality zircon, ilmenite and rutile concentrates from essentially unconsolidated marine and aeolian sands of Cainozoic age. The objective of this study was to characterize rutile with respect to distribution, grain size, textures, colour and mineral chemistry within the Namakwa Sands orebody with the aim to explain its overall poor recovery. A representative suite of heavy mineral concentrates from various sections of the orebody and stages in the recovery circuit has been investigated microscopically and by means of SEM-EDS and LA-ICP-MS. The rutile grain size distribution displays a wide range and is directly related to its variable chemistry and consequently density. In placer deposits such as Namakwa Sands, mineral sorting is a function of hydraulic equivalence, and high density grains are smaller than the lighter grains when deposited under similar conditions. Grain size is also a function of sediment maturity, and the highly mature red aeolian sand (RAS) component of the deposit has a coarser grain size than the less mature orange feldspathic marine sands (OFS). The above primary characteristics of rutile are responsible for the loss of the coarse-grained fraction during screening and, given the empirically determined relationship that increased substitution elements reduce conductivity, also during electrostatic separation. Provenance studies using geothermometry have shown that the heavy mineral suite has been sourced mainly by the proximal medium-to high-grade Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex. The positive relationship between substitution elements and temperature of formation explains their high concentration in rutile of this deposit. The heterogeneity of rutile, produced by the combination of a high temperature primary source and the typical marine-aeolian placer genesis is deposit specific and unfortunately not conducive to high recovery levels in the current Namakwa Sands beneficiation circuit.



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