Minerals Separation, Limited

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Minerals Separation Ltd, was a small London-based company involved in developing a technique of ore extraction. Between 1910 and 1912, Minerals Separation Limited obtained a licence to use a process of ore dressing known as De Bavay's Sulphide Process.

Minerals Separation, Limited obtained U.S. Patent No. 835,120, issued on November 6, 1906, to Henry Livingston Sulman, Hugh Fitzalis Kirkpatrick-Picard and John Ballot. As stated in the specification of the patent, the claimed discovery related "to improvements in the process for the concentration of ores, the object being to separate metalliferous matter from gangue by means of oils, fatty acids, or other substances which have a preferential affinity for such metalliferous matter over gangue."

Prior to the discovery, it was well known that oil and oily substances had a selective affinity or attraction for, and would unite mechanically with, the minute particles of metal and metallic compounds found in crushed or powdered ores, but would not so unite with the quartz, or rocky non-metallic material, called gangue. It was also well known that this selective property of oils and oily substances was increased when applied to some ores by the addition of a small amount of acid to the ore and water used in process of concentration.

The process of the patent in suit consisted in the use of an amount of oil which is critical and minute compared with the amount used in prior processes, amounting to a fraction of 1 percent on the ore and in impregnating with air the mass of ore and water by agitation.

It was generally accepted as so great an advance over any process known before that it promptly came into extensive use for the concentration of ores is most of the principal mining countries of the world. It largely replaced all earlier ore extraction processes and is today known as froth flotation.

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