Each year, about 45 Mt (50 million st) of flotation tailings are discarded in Florida phosphate operations. These tailings only contain about 4% of the phosphate in the ore. However, more than half of the phosphate in the tailings is concentrated in the +600 um (+28 mesh) size fraction at grades of up to 20% P2O5. Many phosphate producers have attempted to solve this problem by floating the +425 um (+35 mesh) flotation feed separately. However, phosphate recoveries in these circuits are typically only 60%. For seven sampled phosphate operations, the phosphate content of the +600 um (+28 mesh) fatty acid tailings ranged from 15% to 25% P2O5. In every case, the +600 um (+28 mesh) fatty acid tailings was higher in grade than the overall flotation feed. Attempts to efficiently recover this coarse phosphate have apparently been unsuccessful at these seven phosphate operations.
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