The origin and development of the flotation process, 1860-1920 : The inventive Elmore family and their legacy.

  • Peter R. Jenkins

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMPhil


Flotation is a means by which particles of mineral can be collected from the surface of a liquid pulp of crushed ore. It is today a highly adaptable process treating incalculable tonnages of ore, but the first small flotation plant was built at the Glasdir copper mine in north Wales during 1897 by the brothers Frank and Stanley Elmore. Other methods were developed at the mines of Broken Hill, New South Wales, then urgently needing a means of concentrating zinc ores. Most successful was the frothing process devised by Minerals Separation Ltd. This was challenged in court by the Elmores who claimed it infringed their patents, but by 1914 Minerals Separation emerged victorious. By then means of preferential flotation were being devised whereby one mineral could be separated from another as well as from waste. Flotation had also apread to the United States where vast reserves of ore could be treated only by the new process. In further litigation Minerals Separation proved infringement of patents by several American mining companies. This strengthened their patent monopoly while others worked to develop processes outside of it. The Elmores had by 1920 no more connection with flotation, but the process had already become indispensible to the world's mining industry. Their role had been to prove to that same doubting industry that flotation could be made to work at all.
Date of Award1985
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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