Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 169-172
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B044
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Chemistry Education in Talent Training of Mineral Processing
Engineering Disciplines Paper
Shuming Wen, H a iying Shen
Faculty of Land Resource Engineering, Kunming University of Science & Technology, Kunming, China
Received 2012
In mineral processing engineering disciplines, flotation, as a primary beneficiation method, is performed
on the basis of surface chemical properties of minerals and rocks. The surface chemistry of minerals and
rocks can be artificially changed to achieve minerals flotation separation. Thus chemistry plays a very
important role in mineral processing engineering disciplines. Analysis shows that inorganic chemistry,
organic chemistry and physical chemistry are all required courses for undergraduate students majoring in
mineral processing engineering. Analytical chemistry and further quantum chemistry for advanced talent
training at the graduate education level are necessary. Chemistry lays the foundation for realizing resource
use in efficiency, integration and cleanliness, and plays a significant role in wastewater recycling, zero
discharge and environment protection. Emphasizing chemistry education and improving chemistry exper-
tise are an important guarantee for environment protection and sustainable development of mineral re-
sources exploitation and utilization.
Keywords: Chemistry Education; Mineral Resources; Mineral Processing; Talent Training
In the process of development and utilization of mineral re-
sources, the principle of mineral separation and concentration is
based on the differences in the physicochemical properties of
useful minerals and gangue minerals. Such physicochemical
properties are mineral specific gravity, magnetic, electrical, and
surface chemical properties, and correspondingly the mineral
separation and enrichment methods consist of gravity concen-
tration, magneto-electric beneficiation, flotation, respectively,
which are applied in a fairly small area because of the limita-
tions imposed by the difficulties in changing mineral specific
gravity, magnetic and electrical properties. However, the artifi-
cial change in mineral surface properties can be achieved, thus
flotation has been widely used in mineral processing engineer-
ing, so to speak, all mineral separation and concentration can be
operated by flotation method.
It is universally accepted that chemistry is an important and
basic subject for mineral processing engineering disciplines
because flotation process, the theoretical basis of which is che-
mistry, is widely used in mineral separation and enrichment. As
a primary mineral processing method, flotation itself is the
application of chemistry in mineral processing engineering
disciplines. Therefore, chemical education plays a very impor-
tant role in the theoretical education of mineral processing en-
gineering disciplines.
Minerals and rocks are naturally formed in nature, with a
fixed composition of the solid compounds. Mineral surface
properties are different due to different compositions and me-
tallogenic conditions, and even the same composition of miner-
als will have different surface properties because of different
mineralization location and metallogenic conditions. With re-
gard to the flotation separation of minerals, there are some si-
milarities in different mineral surface properties. The similari-
ties and differences of surface properties between minerals and
rocks, minerals and minerals, rocks and rocks serve as a basic
principle for flotation separation and enrichment of these min-
erals. In flotation engineering, the surface properties of miner-
als and rocks can be artificially adjusted and changed as needed,
thereby expanding the difference of the surface properties be-
tween minerals separated, to achieve effective separation be-
tween the minerals[1].
Chemistry is a basic course that students need to learn from
junior high school and it remains to be a compulsory course for
the doctoral students in mineral processing engineering. Even
the high-level professionals and professors specialized in min-
eral processing engineering keep studying Chemistry. Since
flotation and Chemistry cannot be separated, there is always
more Chemistry knowledge to study for flotation. How pro-
found the chemistry is; how esoteric the flotation will be. Che-
mistry education is one of the foundations in training talents of
mineral processing engineering, with different levels of talents
corresponding to different levels of chemical education. Only
the importance is attached to chemical education, can talent
training in mineral processing disciplines be well realized.
Flotation is the Application of Chemistry in
Mineral Processing Engineering
Inorganic chemistry is the most ancient subdiscipline of
chemistry, studying elements, simple substance and source,
preparation, structure, nature, change and application of inor-
ganic compounds. The object of flotation is mineral rock, the
inorganic substance indeed, the mineral surface properties of
which are determined by the structure and nature of the mineral
itself, thus the study of mineral surface nature can not be sepa-
rated from the study of the mineral internal composition, struc-
ture and nature. The study of minerals and rocks covers all
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
areas and contents of inorganic chemistry, making inorganic
chemistry a required course for students in mineral processing
As a remarkably important branch of chemistry, organic
chemistry, also known as the chemistry of carbon compounds
study the structure, nature and preparation of organic com-
pounds. Carbon compounds are called organic compounds be-
cause the previous chemists maintained that carbonaceous ma-
terial cannot be created but by organisms. However, in 1828,
since the German chemist Friedrich Weller, successfully syn-
thesized urea (a kind of biological molecules) in the laboratory,
organic chemistry has gone far away from the traditional scope
of the definition, expanding as the carbonaceous materialthe
chemical. Mineral flotation is achieved by changing the hydro-
phobicity of the mineral surface, while the increase in mineral
surface hydrophobicity is operated by adsorbing on mineral
surface with heteropolarity molecules containing alkyl, which
are typical organic matter molecules, concerned in the study of
flotation agents like collector agent, foaming agent, covering a
wide range of organic chemistry. Hence organic chemistry is
also a required course for students in mineral processing engi-
The contents of physical chemistry can be roughly catego-
rized into three aspects: macroscopic equilibrium properties of
chemical system, microstructures and properties of chemical
system and the dynamic nature of chemical system. Taking
three fundamental laws of thermodynamics as the theoretical
basis, the first aspect studies the macroscopic chemical sys-
tem’s balanced physicochemical properties and regularity in the
gaseous, liquid, solid, dissolved, and the highly dispersed states.
The physicochemical subdisciplines including chemical ther-
modynamics, solution, colloid and surface chemistry belong to
this aspect. Theoretically based on quantum theory, the second
aspect studies the structure of atoms and molecules, the space
structure of atoms and molecules at the bulk phase of objects,
the surface structure, as well as the regularity of the structure
and physical properties. The physicochemical subdisciplines
including structural chemistry and quantum chemistry belong to
this aspect. The third aspect studies the velocity of the chemical
changes and change mechanism in the system process caused
by the perturbation of the chemical or physical factors. The
physicochemical subdisciplines including chemical kinetics,
catalysis, photochemistry and electrochemistry belong to this
With rich connotation and broad extension, physical chemi-
stry covers all aspects of flotation such as mineral rock, slurry
solution, organic molecules, the interaction between the gas
medium in froth flotation with the mineral, etc. Physical chemi-
stry is a critical course in mineral processing engineering dis-
ciplines, with the time allotment of most class hours in two
semesters set i n the undergraduate curriculum. Physical chemi-
stry study is directly related to the flotation study. Physical
chemistry is also a compulsory course for the postgraduate
entrance examination of mineral processing engineering discip-
The main contents of analytical chemistry include the ma-
terial element, the qualitative analysis of the group, quantitative
analysis of the quantity of each ingredient or substance purity;
the structure and three-dimensional analysis of spatial arrange-
ment of the molecules formed with matter atoms. The object of
study ranges from a single quality to a complex mixture and
macromolecular compounds, from inorganic to organic com-
pounds, from low molecular weight to high molecular weight.
Samples may be gaseous, liquid and solid. Sample weight falls
into the scope of 100 grams above to mg or below. Determina-
tion of residue proposed by E. Wesson Berg in 1931 specifies
that only 10 micrograms of samples belong to the analysis of
ultramicro amounts. The instruments used range from the test
tube to the advanced instruments attached with automation
equipment and computer program control, recording and sto-
rage. Analytical chemistry is based on fundamental chemical
theory and experimental techniques, absorbing the knowledge
of physics, biology, statistics, computer and automation to
enrich its content, which aims to solve various problems of
scientific and technical analysis. As for mineralized rocks, so-
lution, organic and inorganic agents, mineral processing raw
materials and products involved mineral processing engineering
disciplines, their qualitative or quantitative description will not
be achieved without analyzing and detecting. Instrumental
analysis and detection in theory research process is indispensa-
ble to study and understand the behavior mechanism of mineral
processing. Therefore, Mineral processing is closely related to
analytical chemistry. The curriculum of mineral processing
engineering disciplines requires systematical study of analytical
chemistry at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Being more detailed chemical branch directions than the four
chemistries above, structural chemistry, polymer chemistry,
complex chemistry, electrochemistry, quantum chemistry, will
be involved to varying degrees for specific content and purpose
during the study of mineral flotation. In order to make a closer
combination of chemical and mineral processing engineering
disciplines, the curriculum at the graduate level offers a flota-
tion surface chemistry, the chemistry of the flotation reagents,
flotation electrochemistry and flotation solution chemistry.
Although a lot of chemistry courses are set up in different
stages of mineral processing engineering disciplines, covering
almost all the contents of the field of chemistry, it is still a long
way to go with respect to in-depth study and understanding of
flotation. Mineral flotation has greatly developed by now, yet a
lot of flotation theories remain unsolved and the level of flota-
tion process calls for improvement. To further strengthen
chemical education and mineral flotation chemistry research is
significantly essential for the development of mineral flotation.
Chemistry Education in Talent Training at
All Levels
In the case of secondary and vocational education aiming to
train skilled workers, the students are mostly junior and senior
high school graduates with quite limited fundamental chemical
knowledge and especially the junior high school students can
simply understand the preliminary chemical phenomena. Thus
the instruction of mineral processing expertise requires the
supplement of chemical knowledge necessary for flotation
technology either by integrating it into the learning of expertise
or offering an independent basic chemistry course. Students
must understand and master the basic chemical knowledge
demanded in flotation technology before professional courses
of flotation technology is efficiently carried out and students
really master the technical knowledge of mineral flotation.
In the case of specialty education and undergraduate educa-
tion targeting production technology management and applica-
tion, the curriculum system has considered the importance of
the chemistry for mineral processing engineering. Inorganic
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
chemistry, organic chemistry and physical chemistry are all
required courses, holding a large share of class hours in the
basic specialty curriculum. After systematically learning chem-
ical knowledge, students have been able to thoroughly under-
stand chemical problems in mineral flotation, but also better
master the theory of flotation and flotation process expertise
while learning flotation professional courses, and employ
learned chemical knowledge and flotation theory based on the
changes in the nature of the ore, to analyze and solve the gener-
al technical problems in the production technology manage-
ment and application process.
In the case of graduate education directing at scientific re-
search, in order to enable students discover and resolve produc-
tion technical problems, to equip them with capability of inde-
pendently undertaking scientific research in the field of mineral
processing engineering, analytical chemistry is further required
to learn on the basis of inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry
and physical chemistry at undergraduate education. Learning of
analytical chemistry enable graduate students to master the
conventional analytical techniques, to master the modern detec-
tion methods used in scientific researches, to discover, analyze
and study test data, results of researches, finally solving scien-
tific and technical issues. In case of doctoral students, so as to
strengthen their knowledge of the mechanism of mineral flota-
tion and cultivate their innovative spirit and awareness, t hey are
expected to study quantum chemistry to explore mineral flota-
tion at the level of electrons, atoms, molecules, after a quite
sound grasp of organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical
chemistry and ana lytical chemistry.
Seen from the discussion above, flotation is closely bonded
to chemistry as a part of applied chemistry. It is hard to imagine
the technique application and development and theoretical re-
search of flotation for both technical workers and flota-
tion-exploring doctoral students without the foundation of che-
mistry. As a basis for flotation which is the vital method in
mineral processing engineering, education of chemistry is ex-
tremely significant mineral processing engineering disciplines.
Attach Importa nce to Chemistry Education in
Mineral Processing Engineering Disciplines
Since mineral resources are unsustainable, resource depletion
has become one of the important issues constraining social and
economic development with the continuous development and
utilization, thus mineral resources development and utilization
must adhere to the principle of efficient use. In fact, the devel-
opment and utilization of advanced technology of mineral
processing props up the efficient utilization of resources. Flota-
tion is the crucial method in mineral processing, and it is on
chemistry that flotation is based. Recycling and utilization of
mineral resources is indeed employing chemical technology or
surface chemical technology. Only great emphasis is attached
to chemistry education in mineral processing engineering dis-
ciplines, can the quality of talent be improved radically and the
fundamental problem of efficient utilization of mineral re-
sources be solved from the source.
Out of exploitation, a variety of paragenetic and associated
resources in complex nature bring lots of difficulties to their
separation and enrichment. In order to realize the comprehen-
sive utilization of resources, any valuable minerals should be
recycled. At this time, the technologies, related to chemistry
indeed, including the physical and chemical properties of these
minerals, chemical change of the various minerals’ nature and
enlargement of attribute distinction from one another become
important research projects of processing and engineering dis-
ciplines. Therefore, Chemistry in mineral processing engineer-
ing disciplines determines the comprehensive utilization of
mineral resources. Accordingly, only great emphasis is attached
to chemistry education in mineral processing engineering dis-
ciplines, can the quality of talent be improved radically and the
fundamental problem of efficient utilization of mineral re-
sources be solved from the source.
Mineral resources were formed naturally, containing com-
ponents beneficial to human society as well as harmful compo-
nents. In the process of recovery and use of mineral resources,
while efficiently and comprehensively recycling useful com-
ponents, dealing with the harmful ingredients is one of the tasks
in mineral processing engineering disciplines. Only by handling
hazardous components and making the useless components
remained during and after mineral processing harmless to hu-
man and society, can the clean utilization of mineral resources
be achieved. The handling of hazardous components necessi-
tates knowledge of these components’ nature, and then applica-
tion of chemical and physical methods for separation and
harmless treatment, which are closely related with chemistry, so
clean use of mineral resources can not be separated from the
chemistry. Chemistry education is required in mineral
processing engineering disciplines for clean utilization of min-
eral resources[2].
Mineral processing mostly involves ore pulverizing, disso-
ciating useful minerals from gangue minerals, which is chiefly
conducted in the water, leaving wastewater discharge to be the
important issue affecting the environment. Today's mineral
processing engineering calls for zero discharge of wastewater to
ensure that wastewater does not impact on the environment.
Zero discharge of wastewater necessitates wastewater recycling
and reuse that will bring problems affecting the beneficiation
technical indexes, which should be avoided as much as possible
by studying the nature of backwater and even appropriate
chemical treatment involving chemical knowledge. Hence
wastewater’s impact on the environment and wastewater reuse
treatment are directly related to chemistry. The environmental
problems brought by mineral processing calls for emphasis to
chemistry education in mineral processing engineering discip-
During mineral processing, sustainable development of min-
eral resources development and utilization can be achieved if
we can fulfill efficient, integrated and clean use of resources,
wastewater recycling and zero discharge, all of which are
closely related to chemistry. Therefore, chemistry is so impor-
tant in mineral processing engineering that chemistry education
becomes an essential requirement in this field.
(1) The widely used flotation is actually a branch of applied
chemistry in mineral processing process. All kinds of chemistry
will be involved in various aspects of flotation: study of miner-
al rock is relevant to inorganic chemistry and crystal chemistry;
the interaction between slurry solution and mineral surface and
the slurry solution properties are associated with the physical
chemistry; mineral collector agent and agentia of foaming agent
are related to organic chemistry; the analysis of the properties
of minerals and rocks, solution and agents, and product exami-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
nation and testing cannot be done without analytical chemistry.
Additionally, the in-depth study of flotation theory and the
revealing of the nature of flotation call for further knowledge of
quantum chemistry, electrochemistry, structural chemistry,
complex chemistry, etc. Chemistry plays an extremely impor-
tant role in mineral processing engineering disciplines.
(2) The talent training in mineral processing area should be
conducted in accordance with students’ aptitude and their fun-
damental knowledge of chemistry. Major courses should be
offered, and especially flotation specialized courses are a criti-
cal factor to improve the quality of talent cultivation. To train
the high-level professionals like graduate students with master
and doctor degrees, analytical chemistry and further the quan-
tum chemistry should be included in their courses because the
undergraduate courses like organic chemistry, inorganic chemi-
stry and physical chemistry are limited. Their chemical know-
ledge level lays the ground for the study of mineral processing
(3) Mineral processing engineering disciplines are directly
connected with the use of mineral resources in efficiency, inte-
gration and cleanliness and environmental protection, which
cannot be achieved without the critical knowledge of chemistry.
Improving the chemistry education and expertise of profession-
als in mineral processing engineering fields is an important
guarantee for sustainable development of mineral resources
exploitation and utilization.
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