Authors: Fernandez-Iglesias, A; Corrêa de Araujo, A; Goosens, M


Cite As:
Fernandez-Iglesias, A, Corrêa de Araujo, A & Goosens, M 2013, 'Studying feasibility of paste and thickened tailings at laboratory scale – pilot thickeners', in R Jewell, AB Fourie, J Caldwell & J Pimenta (eds), Paste 2013: Proceedings of the 16th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 635-650,

Download citation as:   ris   bibtex   endnote   text   Zotero

Thickening tailings until they reach a paste-consistency configuration is a process involving many factors. Lab scale work is required prior to studying the feasibility of paste thickening technologies for a given tailings. The global objective is to determine if a representative sample of non-thickened tailings can be engineered at laboratory scale to make paste; this work and its results will help determine the feasibility of the thickening process and the potential paste characteristics at industrial scale. This document aims to justify the need for this lab scale work and to provide information regarding lab scale paste thickeners by presenting the experiences obtained with an experimental lab-scale thickener. Studying the feasibility of a paste and thickened tailings (P&TT) alternative for a mine requires different types of laboratory and pilot scale tests. Many parameters and factors will affect the viability of these technologies for a given case. If we examine the most widely accepted theory, it seems that global design should flow ‘upstream’, starting from the storage area characteristics, stepping back to the piping requirements, and finally defining the thickening process to suit the required characteristics of the underflow. The characteristics of tailings are probably the most important of the factors affecting the viability of the whole process. Location determines the climate, and especially the geological and mineralogical properties of the deposits, but tailings should not be considered as a natural material. They are a waste product of the mining process and are affected by several other parameters: the process used to separate the gangue from the ore, the chemicals added during these processes, the characteristics of the water used, etc. Even during the lifetime of a mine, the tailings characteristics may change due to evolution of the mineral grade and the associated beneficiation process. All these arguments make tailings processing not only site dependant, but also time dependant. The design of a P&TT process to thicken the waste of a mine requires a strong phase of prior research to determine its feasibility; not all tailings are amenable to being ‘engineered’ to reach paste consistency. Even if they are, there are several parameters that can be modified, such as additives, dosage, solids percentage, rheological properties, etc. Thickener design should adapt to these requirements. However, few reference documents with procedures to design these pieces of equipment are available. It seems clear that producing paste at lab scale is imperative in order to have a first idea of how the tailings will behave after being thickened. In order to do this, having a bench scale thickener seems to be a good alternative. Static settling tests do not seem to resolve the need to determine underflow solid concentrations and overflow water characteristics. There is no reference bibliography to construct pilot units; in this study, an experimental column of 9 cm diameter is tested, operating in batch mode, providing a solid concentration for further tests.

Bernal, L. (2010) Implementación del sistema de relaves espesados en Minera Esperanza, Seminar RELPAS 2010, November 2010 Chile Presentation 1 in Module One, .
C. de Araujo, A., Sales Valadão, G.E., Cordeiro, R. and Hernández, C.A. (2006) Efecto de ligantes en la consistencia de una pasta mineral, VIII Jornadas Argentinas de Tratamiento de Minerales, San Juan, Argentina.
Clayton, S., Grice, T.G. and Boger, D.V. (2003) Analysis of the slump test for on-site yield stress measurement of mineral suspensions, International Journal of Mineral Processing, Vol. 70, pp. 3–21.
Gollaher, T., Johnson, J.L., Biesinger, M.T. and Accioly, A.H.L. (2010) Paste thickening tailings: Recent examples of a rapidly emerging technology, SME Annual Meeting.
Jewell, R.J. and Fourie, A.B. (2006) Paste and Thickened Tailings ‒ A Guide, 2nd edition, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, 242 p.
Martin, T. (2012) Tailings testing for design, EduMine Tailings 101 WebCast.
Morais, A.F. (2011) Espessamento e transporte de pasta mineral, Departamento de Engenharia de Minas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.
Newman, P., White, R. and Cadden, A. (2001) Paste — The future of tailings disposal? In Proceedings 2nd International Conference on Mining and the Environment, Skelleftea, Sweden, pp. 594–603.
Olcay Barreda, R.H., Correa, A., Sales Valadão, G.E. and Hernández, Osorio C. (2009) Development and testing of a laboratory scale paste thickener, in Proceedings 12th International Seminar on Paste and Thickened Tailings (Paste09), R.J. Jewell, A.B. Fourie, S. Barrera, J. Wiertz (eds), 21‒24 April 2009, Viña Del Mar, Chile, Gecamin Limited, Santiago, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 119–128.
Paterson, A.J.C. (2004) High density and paste tailings transport systems, in Proceedings International Platinum Conference ‘Platinum Adding Value’, The South African Institute for Mining and Metallurgy, Johannesburg.
Slotte, S., Johnson, J. and Crozier, M. (2005) Paste thickening iron ore tailings, in Proceedings XXXV Ironmaking and Raw Materials Seminar, VI Brazilian Symposium on Iron Ore, 30 August to 2 September, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Sofrá, F. and Boger, D.V. (2002) Environmental rheology for waste minimisation in the minerals industry, Chemical Engineering Journal, Vol. 86, pp. 319–330.
Tao, D., Parekh, B.K. and Honaker, R. (2008) Development and pilot-scale demonstration of deep cone paste thickening process for phosphatic clay disposal: Final report, FIPR Publication No. 02-162-229, Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute
Vietti, A.J., Boshoff, J.C.J. and Cope, A. (2011) Does thickening save water? The Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Vol. 111, pp. 63–66.

© Copyright 2022, Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), The University of Western Australia. All rights reserved.
Please direct any queries or error reports to