Native starch has a complex molecular structure that limits its ability as a selective depressant in sulfide flotation separations. This research study was conducted primarily to develop a series of starch-based molecules of different molecular weights with the aim of obtaining the most selective depressant of pyrite in chalcopyrite flotation. Five low molecular weight molecules were produced by the oxidative treatment of starch using H2O2 as the oxidant and FeSO4⋅7H2O as the catalyst. Oxidation treatment resulted in molecular modification of starch, producing low molecular weight molecules of grafted polar groups with increased reaction time. The molecules developed were investigated by microflotation to obtain the most selective and effective depressant for pyrite than chalcopyrite. The optimal and most selective depressant was named tricarboxystarch (sodium salt), also known as TCSS, based on the results of characterization measurements. The inhibitory effect of tricarboxystarch on pyrite was far more selective and effective than native starch. Good selective separation between pyrite and chalcopyrite was achieved by adding tricarboxystarch to a low pH solution. Tricarboxystarch contained three –COOH and several –OH groups in the skeleton, providing excellent depression of pyrite. This study is a basic research that sheds new light on the development and optimization of organic polymers for flotation technology.
Tricarboxystarch sodium salt