Not sure what mineral beneficiation means? How about hydrometallurgy? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Our mineral laboratory has put together your ultimate reference guide to mineral testing jargon. Mineral testing is extremely complex, and the lexicon sure doesn’t help. After learning these terms, you’ll be well on your way to impressing your boss your friends and racking up points during obscure trivia nights. 

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Mineral Testing

Mineral testing is a broad term used to describe methods of identifying mineral types and ideal extraction methods. Some of the ways we identify minerals are simple, like colour. Others are more complex, like their specific gravity and grindability. Mineral testing is widely used in mineralogy, a branch of geology focused on the scientific studies of minerals. 

Mineral Processing

This is the process of separating valuable minerals from their ore. The leftover waste rock is referred to as gangue. Mineral processing can be accomplished in so many different ways, such as flotation, gravity separation, and old-fashioned optical sorting. 

Mineral Beneficiation

Mineral beneficiation is a process of concentrating valuable constituents of an ore by using a physical separation process. It’s one of the initial steps of extractive metallurgy with the main purpose being to prepare ore for downstream purification processes. 

The most common mineral beneficiation processes are sample preparation, comminution, size classification, and mineral concentration.


This is the process of reducing ore into small particles by means of crushing, grinding, screening, and other methods. Comminution is typically one of the first stages of mineral processing as it liberates valuable particles from gangue for downstream recovery processes. 

Extractive Metallurgy

Extractive metallurgy is the science of extracting metals from their natural mineral deposits. Extractive metallurgy includes mineral processing (or beneficiation), hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrometallurgy.


This is the process of recovering metal from ore using an aqueous solution. Some of the most common forms of hydrometallurgy are:

  • Leaching – often used for gold recovery. This process uses a solvent to recover soluble particles from ore. 
  • Solvent Extraction – typically used as liquid-liquid extraction. It is a process of separating particles based on the differences in their relative solubilities in two different immiscible liquids. 
  • Ion Exchange – a chemical reaction wherein an ion from a solution is exchanged for a similarly charged ion attached to a stationary solid particle.
  • Electrolysis – a process that uses a direct electric current to effect a chemical change in which a substance loses or gains an electron. 


Froth flotation separates hydrophobic particles from hydrophilic ones. Minerals that are hydrophobic attach themselves to air bubbles that float to the surface for recovery. Chemical coatings can be used to turn naturally hydrophobic minerals hydrophilic, and vice versa.


This is the process of recovering metals and minerals from ore using thermal treatments. Some of the most common forms of pyrometallurgy are:

  • Calcining – a process of thermally treating ores in the absence or limited supply of air or oxygen to promote thermal decomposition.
  • Roasting – a process of heating sulphide ore to high temperatures in the presence of air.
  • Smelting – a process of extracting a base metal by applying heat to ore. Typically at least one compound is in a liquid molten phase. 
  • Refining – a process of purifying an impure metal. It differs from other processes as chemical changes to the raw material do not occur. Instead, the final material is usually chemically identical to the original one, except purer.


Electrometallurgy is typically the last stage in the metal production process and is usually preceded by either pyrometallurgy or hydrometallurgy. The process involves using electrolysis to produce metals. 

Physical Metallurgy

Physical metallurgy is the branch of metallurgy dealing with the mechanical, magnetic, electric, and thermal properties of metals. These properties are physical in nature, as opposed to chemical, that is, properties that would need to be defined through chemistry.

Gravity Separation

Gravity separation is a process that separates two components through differences in their specific gravities. Sepro Labs uses the Falcon L40 Gravity Concentrator for bench-scale gravity concentration testing, as well as the Sepro Analytical Table which evaluates the amenability of minerals. 

Gravity separation also includes dense media separation, which uses a carrying medium of water, magnetite, or ferrosilicon. The properties of the medium allow minerals either to remain in suspension at a predetermined slurry density or to be separated from water for cleaning and reuse. Sepro Labs performs both bench-scale and pilot-scale dense media separation.

Optical Sorting

Optical sorting uses cameras and air jets to separate materials along conveyors based on visual properties. Have any questions about these terms? Looking for accurate and unbiased mineral testing? Sepro Labs has the knowledge and experience to successfully conduct mineral beneficiation testing. Our mineral testing laboratory includes a wide range of equipment to research, develop, and test various beneficiation methods. We can quickly and efficiently design the appropriate test programs to save you time and money. Contact our mineral testing laboratory to get started!