The flotation of bastnaesite, as a major mineral source of rare earth elements, attracting much attention in the mineral processing field, is challenging owing to the natural flotability of calcium-bearing minerals. To promote the application of flotation, we systematically investigated the flotation behavior of bastnaesite, barite, and calcite, with salicylhydroxamic acid (SHA) as the collector through micro-flotation experiments, zeta-potential measurements, Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) analyses, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analyses, and solution chemistry analyses. Micro-flotation experiments confirm that the flotability of bastnaesite is high at pH 6.5–8.5, while calcite floats at pH 8.0–9.5, and barite has little flotation response. The results of FT-IR, XPS, and zeta-potential measurements indicate that there is chemical adsorption of SHA on the bastnaesite surface, and physical adsorption also occurs. However, as for barite and calcite, there is only physical adsorption of SHA on the surfaces. The solution chemistry results show that SHA anions can interact with RE3+
, and RE(OH)2+
on bastnaesite surfaces in aqueous suspensions, resulting in bastnaesite flotation.
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