Mineralogy of Beneficiation Problems Involving Fluorspar Concentrates from Carbonatite-Related Fluorspar Deposits


The World's three largest producers of fluorite from carbonatite-related fluorspar ore deposits are located at Okorusu (Namibia), Amba Dongar (India), and Mato Preto (Brazil). Beneficiation problems involving fluorite concentrates from those three deposits share similar characteristics that are directly related to the mineralogy and textures of the ores. The most important of these beneficiation problems involves their phosphorus, silica, and lime contents. Because the fluorite-depositing hydrothermal fluids were partly or largely derived from carbonatite sources, and carbonatites typically are rich in phosphorus, carbonatite-related fluorite deposits would be expected to be characterized by significant amounts of phosphorus mineral in the form of apatite. In the beneficiation products from those ore deposits, apatite occurs as free particles and especially as particles locked with fluorite. The presence of apatite in fluorite concentrates may contribute significant amounts of phosphorus, a deleterious constituent in fluorspar concentrates used in the steelmaking industry. Fluorite concentrates from some carbonatite-related fluorspar deposits are characterized by significant amounts of silica. The silica occurs especially in the form of quartz, potash feldspar, and sericite. Quartz occurs in both free particles and in particles where it is locked with fluorite. Quartz was deposited late in the paragenetic sequence and typically fills small vugs between the fluorite crystals. Potash feldspar formed during early potassic fenitization associated with the magmatic carbonatite emplacement. Potassic feldspar forms intricate intergrowths with fluorite that result in locked feldspar-fluorite particles in the fluorspar concentrates. The potash feldspar is intensely altered to sericite. Fluorite deposits that occur within a carbonatite host, such as those deposits at Amba Dongar and some deposits at Mato Preto, may have the grades of their fluorite concentrate diluted by the presence of calcite. The calcite commonly is present as binary locked calcite-fluorite particles in those fluorspar concentrates. Although the beneficiation problems concerning fluorite concentrates from carbonatite-related fluorspar deposits may be effectively studied by petrographic and ore microscopic techniques, cathodoluminescence microscopy has been found to be uniquely suited to rapid mineral recognition and the study of those minerals involved in fluorspar beneficiation problems.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

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© 1999 Springer Verlag, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 1999