In this study, we investigated the localized and concomitant precipitation of calcium (Ca)/magnesium (Mg)-bearing species and iron oxides/oxyhydroxides, and their depression characteristics to the pyrite floatability in flotation process at pH 9 and pH 10.5 with prolonged pre-oxidation. Contrary to the depression characteristics at pH 9, the incipient (within aeration times of 30 min) depression of pyrite floatability in Ca/Mg-bearing solutions was more obvious at pH 10.5, while the subsequent decline was only slightly when the pre-oxidation time was expanded to 120 min and 360 min. The competitive adsorption among Ca/Mg-bearing species and potassium amyl xanthate (PAX, C6 H11 OS2 K, collector) at specific sites onto the pyrite surface was demonstrated by the regularly decreased zeta potential of the pyrite surface pretreated in Ca/Mg-bearing solutions. Further scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectrometry demonstrated the concomitant secondary Ca/Mg/Fe-bearing precipitates on the pyrite surface. X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy suggested strong reprecipitation of iron oxides/oxyhydroxides on the pyrite surface via acid–base complexation among Ca/Mg hydroxy species and iron hydroxy species. Incipient occupation efficiency of specific reaction sites by Ca/Mg-bearing species, which were mainly controlled by the metastable distribution of Ca/Mg hydroxy species and their electrostatic affinity with pyrite surface, was the crucial factor that influenced the competitive adsorption of xanthate and pyrite floatability. More obvious incipient depression at pH 10.5 rather than at pH 9 contributed to more effective Ca/Mg-bearing species and their higher affinity to pyrite surface at pH 10.5. The localized and concomitant precipitation of secondary Ca/Mg/Fe-bearing species leads to a slightly increased hydrophilic coverage upon the pyrite surface, thus a slowly decreased pyrite floatability with increasing pre-oxidation time.
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