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, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth, pp. 93-100, https://doi.org/10.36487/ACG_repo/963_11
Storage and disposal of large volume tailings are a huge environmental problem facing the surface-mining
oil sands industry. It is expected that the volume of tailings ponds to exceed one billion m3 by 2020. Major
efforts are presently being made to reclaim the tailings ponds using emerging technologies.
Commercial Magnafloc 1011 and in-house synthesised Al-PAM were tested for their flocculation in assisting
the settling of laboratory extraction oil sands tailings and tailings from froth treatment unit. Both polymers
showed excellent ability to enhance fine solids settling. As the fine solids and bitumen content in the tailings
increase, the dosage required to achieve a desired settling rate increases. The supernatant of tailings treated
with Magnafloc 1011 was not as clear as those treated with Al-PAM, indicating more suspended solids
remaining in the supernatant.
For Magnafloc 1011, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis of the solids from supernatants
showed a significant fraction of bitumen and bitumen contaminated fine particles in the supernatant. When
Al-PAM was added, on the other hand, very few bitumen droplets and particles were left in the supernatants.
It appears that Al-PAM could affect both bitumen and fine solids, while Magnafloc 1011 preferentially
adsorbs on solids rather than on bitumen in the tailings water. The findings were confirmed by atomic force
microscope studies. The different type of interaction of Al-PAM and Magnafloc 1011 with fine solids in the
tailings water is responsible for their performance as flocculant for oil sands tailings.
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