Short history of mineral processing. Part 1-Introduction

Mineral processing history known first from Egyptian. The ancient Egyptians knew already that it would be easier to melt an earth rich in gold particles than another which is poor. As a result all efforts were made to enrich the gold by washing away the light gangue minerals. Another ancient method for enriching gold particles from a river stream was by means of fleece. Inspired by the Greek myth of the “golden fleece”. The present day Georgia was known in ancient times as Colchis. It was a center for gold working. It was known to the ancient Greek as the land of Golden Fleece. 

Middle ages

mineral processing history in the middle ages. When trees in Europe were cut on a large scale to supply wood as a fuel for the smelting furnaces it was realised that, to economize the consumption of wood it would be necessary to remove as much as possible of the gangue minerals from the charge to the furnace. Hence more effort was directed to beneficiate the ores. The most important ores treated at that time were those of copper, iron and silver. In fact most of the silver was recovered from lead ores. To enrich an ore in its valuable minerals it was necessary to crush it into small fragments. The fragments then pick up the mineral values and discard the valueless minerals. Hence crushing of ores became the first step in beneficiation.

Peter von Rittinger

Early modern days

Mineral processing history in the early years. In early years of the schools of mines, teaching of mining and metallurgy, and sometimes geology and mineralogy were taught by the same professor. Also, the tendency was to teach courses related to the exploitation of mineral resources. It was Peter von Rittinger  at the Schemnitz School of Mines in the Austrian Empire who first taught the subject of mineral dressing. He wrote specialized books on this topic. It took some time when orientation of the College or Institute took shape in North America.

Robert H. Richards in USA was the first to organized a mineral dressing laboratory. Located at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He published a series of books on the subject that started in 1903. However, the first chair in mineral dressing was founded in 1919 at Columbia School of Mines and was occupied by Arthur F. Taggart (1884-1959). He authored Handbook of Ore Dressing in 1927. Mineral dressing was continued to develop at MIT when Antoine M. Gaudin (1900-1974) joined in 1939, who also taught mineral dressing at Columbia, Utah, and Montana before joining the MIT.

Most of the topics of mineral beneficiation, however, were divided between chemical engineering and metallurgy books. Recently that the subject became well defined and an independent domain. The International Mineral Processing Congress was organized in the 1950s. The first congress took place in London in 1952, thanks to the efforts of P. Gy, Jacques E. Astier, C.W. Dannatt, and others.

 

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