In the mineral industry, beneficiation is a process that aims to improve the yield of an ore deposit. This increases the potential earnings available from the ore and allows a company to increase the overall profitability of a mine and its business in a specific area. Various processes are used to achieve beneficiation objectives, and several companies that manufacture mining equipment have product lines that are designed to help companies get more out of their ore.
The objective of beneficiation is to eliminate inefficiency and waste by ensuring that as much recoverable material as possible is extracted from the ore. A number of techniques can be used to do this, usually starting with grinding the ore into particles. Once ground, the particles can be screened and sorted to extract the usable material and reserve the waste. For example, particles can be suspended in water to allow various components to separate, making usable ore easier to access.
For rare resources, beneficiation is critical, as it takes advantage of every available scrap material. This practice can also make a fringe mining facility more practical than it might otherwise be, and can, in fact, be used to extract ore from a facility that was previously believed to be depleted. The beneficiation potential is also considered when evaluating potential mine sites to determine whether or not mine operating expenses will be offset by mine products.
People concerned with sustainable development and ethical business practices also use the term “beneficiation”, but in a slightly different way. Rather than meaning that the maximum potential of a resource has been exploited, beneficiation refers to business practices that benefit the communities where products are mined, harvested and otherwise taken. Historically, large companies have tended to enter small communities, obtain resources and then leave, with no benefit to the population.
This practice of exploiting a community and then leaving has become seen as a form of exploitation of people and national governments, making beneficiation increasingly popular. With beneficiation, a company does things like moving some of its operations to the country where a product is harvested or mined, giving back to the community and doing more work to keep some of the profits and benefits in the country. For example, if a company is mining opals, it could open a facility to cut and polish opals close to the mine, rather than shipping them overseas for processing, to create more job opportunities for the local community. Likewise, a company that harvests wood can operate a factory close to the forest instead of shipping raw wood abroad.