Adsorption, electrokinetic, microflotation, and flocculation studies have been carried out on sphalerite and galena minerals using extracellular polysaccharides (ECP) isolated from Bacillus polymyxa. The adsorption density of ECP onto galena is found to be higher than that onto sphalerite. The adsorption of ECP onto sphalerite is found to increase from pH 3 to about pH 7, where a maximum is attained, and thereafter continuously decreases. With respect to galena, the adsorption density of ECP steadily increases with increased pH. The addition of ECP correspondingly reduces the negative electrophoretic mobilities of sphalerite and galena in absolute magnitude without shifting their isoelectric points. However, the magnitude of the reduction in the electrophoretic mobility values is found to be greater for galena compared to that for sphalerite. Microflotation tests show that galena is depressed while sphalerite is floated using ECP in the entire pH range investigated. Selective flotation tests on a synthetic mixture of galena and sphalerite corroborate that sphalerite could be floated from galena at pH 9-9.5 using ECP as a depressant for galena. Flocculation tests reveal that in the pH range 9-11, sphalerite is dispersed and galena is flocculated in the presence of ECP. Dissolution tests indicate release of the lattice metal ions from galena and sphalerite, while co-precipitation tests confirm chemical interaction between lead or zinc ions and ECP. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopic studies provide evidence in support of hydrogen bonding and chemical interaction for the adsorption of ECP onto galena/sphalerite surfaces. © 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).
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