Mining Iron Ore from Tailings with Minimal Use of Process Water

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Iron ore tailings typically containing 40 to 50% Fe can be beneficiated to iron ore products containing 54 to 60% Fe. The impurities are comprised of clay, quartz, cristabolite and TiO2. Goethite and hematite are also present. At high concentrations of 55-60 wt% solids, the tailings displayed high yield stress and viscosity and cannot be pumped over long distances. Composite additives comprising of NaOH, phosphate-based additives and sodium metasilicate are found to reduce the viscosity and yield stress very significantly by a few orders of magnitude. The yield stress of 100 Pa can be reduced to almost zero. At this state, dilution of the tailings with its process water to 40% solids causes the coarse and high-density iron ore particles to separate from the colloidal fractions located in the supernatant after a few minutes of sedimentation. Separation by decantation produces a sediment with an Fe content of 54% from tailings with 47% Fe. Another tailings sample with 48% Fe was beneficiated to greater than 57% Fe using NaOH-metasilicate-polyphosphate additives and employing an additional washing step. The use of other composite additives, NaOH and polyphosphates, increased beneficiated product Fe content to greater than 60% from the same tailings. With the current iron ore spot price of more than US$180 per tonne, the cost of this treatment process even including a desalination step if necessary, is relatively insignificant. This study has given tailings an economic value that should be exploited as soon as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages660
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021
EventIronOre 2021 - Australia, Perth, Australia
Duration: 8 Nov 202110 Nov 2021


ConferenceIronOre 2021
Internet address


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