Comparative study of Non-Newtonian thickened tailings in function of recovered water for a specific energy consumption
As is well known, the availability of water for mining processes in Chile is limited. In addition, it should be considered that the vast majority of mining plants are located in the northern part of the country, which is for the most part desert, and mainly at a high altitude.
Given the low availability of water, various alternatives have emerged such as thickening tailings to high concentrations by weight (recovering more water in the thickeners) or using desalinated seawater.
The present study aims to define the optimum thickening concentration for copper tailings, applied to a case study of representative Chilean mine tailings, from a rheological and energy point of view, as a function of recovered water in the thickeners and specific energy consumption (SEC), transporting one ton of Non-Newtonian thickened tailings.
The specific energy consumption (SEC) should be related mostly to the solids transported than to the mixture, with thickening becoming a relevant parameter, since in slurry transport, the solids are usually the "payload", while the conveying fluid is simply the "vehicle".
The result of this paper provides the industry with an additional variable to consider in the optimum grade of tailings thickening and rheological design parameters for projects, which could be considered in conceptual and pre-feasibility stages or in the optimization of existing systems.