Objectives and content
During 1994 the development and production of niobium super-alloys and niobium products by European Industry has been affected by non-availability of niobium mineral concentrates on the world market. Brazil and Canada are the only niobium producing countries and export only value-added products. European Industry is facing difficulties in developing niobium based products for use in the expanding markets of aerospace, optics, electronics and super-conductors.
The proposed research programme is aimed at developing an indigenous source of niobium from the pyrochlor-bearing carbonatite deposits at Sokli, Finland. These deposits are both structurally and mineralogically complex with niobium grades lower (0.5 -1.0 % Nb205) than those currently being exploited in Brazil and Canada. The existence of many different ore types within the deposits has been recognised based on niobium mineralogy, gangue mineralogy and grain size and each will respond differently to the combination of gravity, flotation and magnetic separation techniques that will be used to produce pyrochlore concentrates.
It is proposed that a detailed programme of chemical analysis, quantitative mineralogical analysis and laboratory process testwork is undertaken to determine methods by which economic concentrates of pyrochlore may be produced. The results of the analyses and testwork will be used to develop a computer model that will determine the optimum blends of the different oretypes that will maximise the economic potential of the ore.
The parameters used in this model will include feed and concentrate grades, niobium recovery by size to the various processes, concentrate value, penalty elements deductions and operating costs. Given that the objective is to optimise more than one variable and that the system dynamics are non-linear, it will be necessary to apply heuristic modelling techniques to goal seek to produce satisfactory results.
Pilot plant trials will be undertaken in Finland to confirm the results of the testwork and modelling and to provide data for the basic engineering of an industrial scale process plant.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
LL28 5HA Colwyn Bay