Coal Preparation » Environmental Improvement
Water retention, water loss and delay in tailings storage rehabilitation is a major challenge for many coal mines. Work by Stewart, Backer & Busch in the early 1980's suggested that there were improvements to be made in tailings dewatering and density by the addition of flocculant. This prompted ACARP, in cooperation with Bulga Coal Management (Xstrata), to initiate a research project investigating the impact of flocculant addition on tailings deposition density, water retention and the tendency for tailings to form surface crusts suitable for subsequent rehabilitation.
A polyacrylamide-based flocculant (200 - 250 g/tds) was injected into the tailings line immediately prior to disposal into the impoundment area. The flocculated slurry rapidly released clear water and created a beach due to the immediate increase in deposition density. The deposition density increased from 35% w/w to 61%w/w solids within 24hrs and continued to increase to 75%, 7 days after treatment. The water capture at the tailings storage facility improved by more than 90%; water which would otherwise be lost from the circuit through retention and evaporation. The impoundment capacity had nearly tripled due to the improvement in initial deposition density from 420 kg/m3 up to 1163 kg/m3. Four weeks after disposal surface crusts were forming on the storage facility, suggesting that there would be less delay between cessation and tailings storage rehabilitation.