Flotation Cell Optimization

Increase recovery and throughput capacity by running your flotation cell at optimal design conditions.

Control Challenge

In an ideal world, flotation cells would be operated to achieve an optimal overflow composition that maximizes product recovery and minimizes product loss to tailings. Overflow pull rates (cell levels), air injection rates, and reagent dosing would be adjusted based on feed composition and feed rate from upstream processes; and recovery targets would be adjusted based on the desired throughput.

Unfortunately, reliable, continuous in-stream measurements of overflow or underflow composition are rarely available. Without this critical feedback on the performance of the flotation cells, operators are left to run the flotation cells “blind”. The critical control inputs (air flow, pull rates/level, and reagent dosing) are set at conditions that “look good” until major changes are noticed.

Because recovery is not directly measured at the flotation cells, running at sub-optimal conditions often goes unnoticed. This has a major impact on throughput capacity and product recovery in the flotation cells and all downstream processes.


The SpartanPRO™ flotation cell solution uses all available information to keep the flotation cells running as close to design conditions as possible. As feed rate, density, and composition (if available) change based on upstream operation, the solution automatically coordinates flotation control inputs to hold cell operation near optimal conditions.

The solution also optimizes pull rates and air flow rates of individual cells across the flotation bank to maximize recovery at the required production rate. Typical flotation bank design assumes an optimal profile of froth pull rates, where the optimal pull rate in the first cell can be 3-6 times that of the final cell in the same bank. Likewise, optimal air flow rates vary significantly from cell to cell, with the first cells requiring much higher velocities. The air flow and froth pull profiles are rarely used in practice, but are fully embedded in Spartan’s solution using quadratic-programming (QP) optimization.

Finally, the solution optimizes water addition to the upstream and downstream pump boxes. With the SpartanPRO™ flotation cell solution, pump box feed rates are coordinated with upstream operation to maintain stable levels without having to compensate by diluting feed in response to unstable flotation cell operation. This improves performance of the flotation cells while reducing water consumption.

Summary of Features

  • Coordinated cell level control to minimize the impact of upstream disturbances 
  • Froth pull and underflow rate control that automatically adjusts cell level setpoints 
  • Froth pull and underflow rate profile optimization to maximize recovery based on flotation feed conditions 
  • Air flow profile control and optimization based on flotation feed conditions 
  • Reagent dosing control and optimization based on flotation feed conditions (optional) 
  • Optimized flotation circuit control to maintain stable pump box inventories and minimize water use 
  • Intuitive graphic interface that allows operators to easily adjust control while maintaining stability in abnormal operating conditions  

Return on Investment (ROI) 

With no direct recovery measurement on the flotation cell overflow and underflow streams, benefits from the SpartanPRO™ flotation cell solution are measured in overall improvements in product recovery. Many process conditions impact overall product recovery, so the assessment of benefits can be challenging and complex calculations that are heavily influenced by existing operating practices. However, conservative estimates of benefits from previous installations include: 

  •  0.2-0.8% increased product recovery 
  •  0.2-1.0% reduced product in tailings 
  •  1.0-2.0% increased separation throughput capacity

For a typical mining producer, these are impactful cost savings that significantly outweigh the cost of implementation.

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