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Publication numberUS3763041 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateOct 2, 1973
Filing dateNov 24, 1971
Priority dateNov 24, 1971
Publication numberUS 3763041 A, US 3763041A, US-A-3763041, US3763041 A, US3763041A
InventorsC Cook, E Haynsworth
Original AssigneeAmerican Cyanamid Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Process of removing water from slimes
US 3763041 A
A process for enhancing the rate at which water is removed from the waste slimes of ore processing operations, particularly phosphate rock processing, in which waste tailings from the ore processing are admixed with the slimes to release water from the mixture. The slimes contain a solid content of from 10% to about 25 percent by weight and tailings are added to produce a slimes-tailing mixture which contains, on a dry basis, from about 60 percent to 99 percent by weight tailings.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent [1 1 [111 3,763,041

Cook et al. 1 Oct. 2, 1973 PROCESS OF REMOVING WATER FROM [56] References Cited SLIMES UNITED STATES PATENTS [75; Inventors: Charles C l i (3 k, Lak n d; 3,451,788 6/l969 Smith 210 44 x Erwin Haynsworth, Tampa both ofFla. 3,680,698 8/1972 Llu et al. 210/46 [73 l Assignee: American Cyanamid Company. Primary Examiner-John Adee Stamford, Conn. Attorney-Robert P. Raymond [22] Filed: Nov. 24, I971 ABSTRACT I I PP 201,892 A process for enhancing the rate at which water is re- Rehned .s Appncation m moved from the waste slimes of are processing opera- [63] Continuation-impart of Ser. No. 24,090, March 31, tions particularly phosphate rockprocessing in whlch 970 abandoned waste tailings from the ore processing are admixed with the slimes to release water from the mixture. The slimes 52 US. Cl :210 42, 210/83, 71/64 sc, contain a Solid content of fmm 25 1";62i'ji percent by weight and tailin g s aregddedto produce [51] Int. Cl. 801d 21/01 a i i i g mixture which nt i n a ry [5 8] Field of Search 210/42, 44, 46, 55, basis, from about 60, percent to 99 percent by weight 210/83, 84; 71/32, 42, 43, 65, 64 SC, 64 DC, ta ilipgS- 4 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures PHOSPHATE PHOSPHATE FLOTAT/OA/ IPOcK nix Z0 Rock TREATMENT PHOSPHATE ROCK STEP-S //\/SECONOARY /o\ /PRIMAFY SL/MES sum-s //2 sum-s DEWATERED TH/CKENER l9 TAIL/N68 l3 l WET-PROCESSI PHOSPHOR/C I /0 FLA/V7: TH/C/(ENED sL/MEs SLURPY l; i

SLURPYK cwc'ma fguu/irs "Lav-E- 951: I ,7 '1 F 1 405M577 r i tree L, l--2/ J I I sum/w 0F HYDRA r I CALCIUM SULFATE I (pH 7- 8) MIXTURE 7'0 EXCAVATION DISPOSAL SITE BEAR/N6 STPE/VG TH, PS/ x PATENTEDBET ems 3.763.041 SHEET IUF a I L/ME 7'A/L//V6 IX 7 A) AP A A A5 A FUNCTION OF THE PERCENT SOL/0S //V THE SLIMESI USED TO PREPARE THLAMPLES TAIL/was i (DRY sL/MEsI 845/5) I I I I' I 5 l0 7 /5 20 25 SOL/D5 l/V SL/MES USED 7'0 PREPARE LAND-FILL I PROCESS OF REMOVING WATER FROM SLIMES This application is a continuation-in-part of US. Pat. application Ser. No. 24,090, filed Mar. 31, 1970 now abandoned.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Since valuable ore deposits often occur in nature intimately mixed with a variety of less valuable or desirable constituents, it is a primary function of the ore processing industry to remove or separate as much of these extraneous constituents from the desired ore as possible. The flotation process developed in the early 1930s has proven to be a valuable tool for assisting in the removal of unwanted waste products from ores and is in wide usage today in a variety of ore processing operations. However, since the development and utilization of the flotation process by the ore processing industry, disposal of the waste products resulting therefrom has presented a monumental problem. Basically Y these waste materials fall into two categories identified by those skilled in the ore processing art by the terms slimes and tailings, respectively.

Slimes The slimes are aqueous suspensions or dispersions of the ultrafine solid wastes most of which are ordinarily separated from the ore feed stream to the flotation step prior to carrying out the flotation step. These slimes are called primary slimes. This separation is typically carried out using cyclones, hydroseparators" or other conventional equipment. Smaller amounts of slimes, i.e., secondary slimes, may also be separated from the ore in the flotation step itself. Generally, primary slimes will account for about 90 percent of the total slimes produced and secondary slimes for the remaining percent.

Slimes may be more precisely defined as comprising an aqueous suspension of ultrafine soil solids associated with the ore such as, for example, clays, quartz, and mineral values, the solid particles of which are of sufficiently small particle size so that at least about 99 percent by weight of the solids (dry basis) passes through 150 mesh screen. Mesh sizes as used throughout this specification refer to the Tyler Standard Series. It is therefore apparent that substantially all, i.e., 99-100 percent, of the particles will possess a particle size which is less than about 105 microns. Although substantially all of the slime solids can be characterized in particle size as minus 150 mesh, it is to be understood that variation in the particle size distribution of the slimes can occur between slimes emanating from different ore processing operations such as, for example, phosphate and copper mining, as well as between slimes from the same type of mining operation, i.e.,

phosphate, in cases where the soil in which the ore is found varies from location to location. As a general rule, anywhere from 66 percent to 75 percent by weight of the slime solids will pass through 325 mesh screen, these minus 325 mesh particles having an average particle size less than about 44 microns; however, some slimes such as, for example, certain phosphate slimes, may contain as high as 98 percent minus 325 mesh particles. Typically, as much as 50 percent by weight of the solids may have a particle size which is below 10 microns.

Tailings The tailings are the solid waste from the flotation step itself and are essentially water insoluble granular particles of soil which is associated with the ore which have a substantially larger particle size than the slime solids. The term tailings includes aqueous slurries of the waste solids as well as what are often referred to as dewatered tailings, which are solid wastes from which sufficient water has been removed by centrifugal separators or other conventional equipment to produce a moisture content in the solids of from about 20 to 30 percent by weight. Tailings typically comprise a mixture of from about to percentby weight (dry basis) of quartz and from about 5 to 10 percent by weight (dry basis) mineral values wherein at least 95 percent by weight (dry basis) of the solids possess an average particle within the range 16 150 mesh. Accordingly, at least 95 percent by weight average between about and 1,000 microns and a major portion of the tailings are generally larger than about 65 mesh. Although tailings solids will ordinarily fall within the particle size ranges given above, variation in the particle size distribution within this range can occur depending upon the nature of the soil in which the particular ore deposit occurs.

Slimes and tailings as defined above are produced as waste products in a host of widely varying ore processing operations such as, for example, in copper mining, in the mining of heavy minerals such as titanium and rutile, and in virtually all non-metallic mining such as the mining of phosphate, potash, feldspar, clays, and fluorspar. For purposes of clarity, it becomes convenient to discuss this invention in terms of a particular ore processing industry although it must be understood, in view of the similarities which exist between the slimes and tailings from a variety of ore processing operations, that this invention is in no way limited to the slimes or tailings from the ore processing industry selected to exemplify this invention.

A principal generator of copious amounts of slimes and tailings is the phosphate rock processing industry, a substantial portion of which is located in the state of Florida. Slimes and tailings from such an operation can be conveniently referred to as phosphate slimes and phosphate tailings.

An extensive analysis and characterization of Florida phosphate slimes can be found in the Bureau of Mines Report of Investigations 6,163 by J. H. Gary et al. which appeared in 1963 under the title Chemical and Physical Beneficiation of Florida Phosphate Slimes, said publication incorporated herein by reference. A typical size distribution screen analysis (dry basis) and a typical chemical analysis (dry basis) of a Florida phosphate slime are presented below:

Screen Analysis Mesh +20 -20 a5 48 -s& 100 -200 -a25 Percent by weight 100 99.85 99.65 99.20 93.30

CHEMICAL ANALYSIS 3 insoluhles (quartz) 17-23 Florida phosphate slimes typically contain approximately one-third finely divided quartz, one-third finely divided fluoapatite, and one-third finely divided clays (primarily attapulgite). Such slimes generally contain very large amounts of extremely fine solid particles. In the screen analysis given above, for example, it can be seen that 98.3 percent by weight of the solids have a particle size of minus 325 mesh. It should also be noted that the slimes may contain small amounts of tailings. In the above screen analysis, for example, the slimes contained 0.35 percent tailings solids.

A typical size distribution screen analysis (dry basis) and a typical chemical analysis (dry basis) of Florida phosphate tailings are presented below:

Screen Analysis Mesh +20 20 -35 -48 65 l ISO --200 325 From the above screen analysis, it can be seen that 95.4 percent of the tailings solids have an average particle size within the range -20 150 mesh, a particle size range which is fairly typical of a Florida phosphate tailings. It should be noted that the tailings may contain small amounts of slimes as can be seen from the above screen analysis which shows a slimes solid content of 3.4 percent.

It is disposal of the tremendous amounts of slimes generated by ore processing plants which presents the greatest waste disposal problem and it is the solution of this problem to which this invention is primarily directed. Slimes present a problem because they retain substantial amounts of water and consequently their fluidity even after years of settling and, as a result, possess substantially no bearing strength whatever. Even after settling for many years, the slimes settle to only about 25-30 percent by weight solids and still possess a jelly like consistency. As such, the disposal site in which they are deposited becomes virtually useless and is an obvious hazard to passers-by. The slimes are typically disposed of by discharging them into excavations or, as is perhaps more common, into reservoirs or ponds which are formed by a constructed earthen damwork. The slimes are allowed to settle by gravity; the water which separates from the slimes during settling is usually recovered from the slimes settling pond for reuse in the ore processing plant.

Where dammed sites are utilized, the dams must be continuously maintained for when a darn fails, as they may occasionally do, the countryside and rivers surrounding the site are inundated with vast quantities of the jelly-like slimes resulting in pollution of the land and surrounding water-ways. Moreover, when the slimes disposal area is filled, the site is nothing more than a liability. A crust may form on the surface of the site but a few inches below the surface, the slimes are a jelly-like mass, and obviously a series hazard to anyone crossing the site. Backfilling over the surface may permit use of the filled up disposal site for limited agricultural use but use of heavy equipment and building on the site is not possible.

Because of the seriousness of this problem, the ore processing industry has over the past three-and-a-half decades continually sought an acceptable means of eliminating this problem. Over the years, investigators have proposed such slimes disposal techniques as consolidation by stage filling, solar heating, selective flocculation, pressure filtration and dewatering by electroosmotic techniques, but heretofore none of these proposals have met with genuine success. This is manifestly evident from the fact that virtually every phosphate producer, for example, who utilizes a flotation system today still disposes of the slimes produced dur' ing processing of the phosphate rock in ponds in mined-out areas and/or in ponds created by the erection of earthen dams.

Disposal of tailings, while not as serious a problem as the disposal of slimes, is still a problem. The tailings have acceptable bearing strength when deposited in a firmly confined area but are essentially barren of plant nutrient, have practically no capacity for holding water, and are easily carried aloft by wind and eroded by storms. These properties present an obvious disadvantage to useful reclamation of these tailings disposal sites.

It is an object of this invention to provide a means for eliminating the substantial waste disposal problems attendant with presently used procedures for disposing of slimes and tailings and, in particular, to eliminate the safety hazards and land and water pollution hazards associated with such waste disposal procedures.

It is another object of this invention to provide a means whereby otherwise virtually useless slimes can be transformed into fertile soil having acceptable bearing strength so as to render such soil eminently suitable for purposes of land reclamation and pollution control.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to a process for enhancing the rate at which water can be removed from the waste slimes of ore processing operations.

This invention also relates to a process for producing a fertile reconstituted soil of acceptable bearing strength which comprises admixing slimes having a critical solids content with prescribed amounts of tailings.

This invention also relates to various reconstituted fertile land-fill compositions of slimes and tailings such as those prepared in accordance with the above process.

In accordance with the present invention, it has been found that when slimes are admixed with tailings, the slimes dewater at a substantially greater rate than is achievable using gravity settling and, moreover, that the reconstituted slimes-tailings mixtures produced thereby are sufficiently fertile to support plant life and possesses acceptable bearing strength. By acceptable bearing strength is meant that the bearing strength of the reconstituted mixture will approach that of normal soil in the region from which the ore being processed originates. In general, an acceptable bearing strength means that the land will support animals and human beings, heavy equipment such as tractors and the like, and can be used for the construction of buildings and dwellings.

More particularly, it has been found that if the slimes are simply admixed with tailings that:

1. there is a substantial enhancement in the rate at which the water is released from the slimes. This is best seen in FIG. 2 which is discussed more fully hereinbelow. For example, whereas slimes containing 2 percent solids will settle by gravity to only 7 percent solids after about 60 days, the addition of tailings to the slimes results in slimes containing percent solids in 30 days and percent solids in 60 days; and

2. water is released from the slimes over a relatively short settling time in amounts substantially greater than was heretofore though possible. This is best seen in FIG. 3 which is discussed more fully hereinbelow. For example, whereas slimes containing 2 percent solids after settling 60 days produced only 70 percent clear water, the same slimes upon addition of tailings thereto produced about 80 percent clear water after days and 90 percent clear water after 60 days. The increased amount of water which the process of this invention now allows to be rapidly recovered from the slimes has the two fold advantage of making substantially more water available for recycle to the ore processing plant while simultaneously significantly reducing the acreage required for the slime disposal site.

If tailings are added to the slimes merely to enhance the rate at which the slimes are dewatered, the amount of solids present in the slimes is not critical. Typical waste slimes may contain from about 0.5 percent to about 10 percent solids and ordinarily will contain from about I to 5 percent solids. The slimes can achieve a solids content higher than 10 percent, such higher concentrations usually being obtained by gravity settling of the slimes. For reasons made clear hereinbelow the slimes used in the process of this invention will preferably contain about 10 percent to about 25 percent so]- ids.

Similarly, the amount of tailings added to enhance dewatering of the slimes is not critical. However, it is desirable to add tailings in an amount sufficient to provide a slimes-tailings mixture containing at least about 50 percent by weight tailings on a dry basis and, for reasons made clear hereinbelow, preferably 60 percent to 99 percent tailings.

The slimes and tailings can be admixed in any of a variety of standard techniques. A particularly convenient method is to repulp dewatered tailings with a thickened slime. The term admixing contemplates mixing by gravity settling of the tailings into the slimes as well as the more conventional means of mixing by agitation.

It has also been found that if the solids content of the slimes which are admixed with the tailings fall within a prescribed critical range and if a prescribed amount of tailings is employed, the resultant reconstituted slimestailings land-fill composition possesses sufficient fertility to support plant life and, moreover, possesses acceptable bearing strength. More particularly, such a land-fill composition results when slimes having a solids content of between about 10 percent and 25 percent by weight, and preferably 11 percent to 15 percent, are admixed with tailings in sufficient amount to provide from about 60 to 99 percent, and preferably 6040 percent, by weight (dry basis) tailings in said mixture. The criticality of the solids content of the slimes is best seen in FIG. 4 which is discussed in greater detail hereinbelow.

Where the slimes have a solid concentration below about 10 percent prior to admixture with the tailings,

tailings trickle through the mixture, with most of the tailings forming as a layer in the bottom of the disposal area. The slimes are simply displaced and rest on top of the tailings. Where the slimes have a solids content which exceeds 25 percent, the tails bridge across the slimessurface and a jelly-like mass remains trapped below the tails, resulting in nothing more than capping the slimes. In both instances, the resulting slimestailings mixture is unsuitable for use in land reclamation.

If the resulting mixture contains. more than about 99 percent tailings, the land-till composition lacks the requisite fertility and moreover would provide for only minimal utilization of the waste slimes. If the resulting mixtures contain less than about percent tails, the land-fill composition lacks sufficient bearing strength for effective land reclamation.

The tails can be deposited on the surface of the slimes and will mix by gravity; they can similarly be admixed with the slimes and will remain suspended therein. A variety of techniques for mixing the slimes and tailings will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Additional techniques for carrying out the mixing operation are provided hereinbelow. Slimes of the requisite solids content and the prescribed amount of tailings can be admixed and then deposited into a'suitable excavation, dammed site, or other suitable disposal area wherein provision is made to collect or otherwise dispose of the water released from the slimes.

Similarly, tailings may be deposited onto the surface of a pre-existing slimes pond wherein the slimes have settled to a solids content of 10 to 25 percent. The tails will work their way down into the slimes and will remain suspended in the slimes to form a firm fertile lande fill composition.

In yet another embodiment, tailings and slimes (not necessarily containing 10 to 25 solids) are admixed to produce a slurry which is then discharged into an excavation. After discharge, the slimes tend to separate and flow away from the tailings. As these separated slimes settle to the required solids content of 10 to 25 percent, the slimes-tailings mixture is discharged onto these settled slimes; the tailings contained in the discharged mixture mix with the settled slimes while the slimes in the discharged mixture separate and flow away from the tailings and settle to a 10 to 25 percent solids level before they in turn are covered by the gradually advancing discharge of slimes-tailings mixture. Similarly, a slimes-tailings mixture can be deposited into a drained slimes pond wherein the slimes are already at a 10 to 25 percent solids level. A variety of other techniques for employing this invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art and are embraced within the scope of this invention.

It has been found that within a few hours after the slimes-tailings mixture is produced and deposited in the disposal site that it possesses sufficient bearing strength to support a mans weight. With a few (2 to 3) weeks, the mixture has sufficient bearing strength to support heavy equipment such as D-8 tractors. A somewhat longer time period is required to achieve a bearing strength within the mixture which is sufficient to support construction of buildings and dwellings.

It is also possible to add to the admixture of tailings and slimes varying amounts of substituents such as overburden from the ore mining operation and hydrated calcium sulfate without destroying the desirable properties of the land-fill composition. Overburden is that portion of the earths crust which ordinarily covers the matrix wherein the mineral values are found. It is ordinarily removed by a drag-line or such to expose the mineral containing matrix. Hydrated calcium sulfate is frequently available as a by-product from wet process phosphoric acid manufacturing facilities which are often found in close proximity to phosphate mining operations. The hydrated calcium sulfate or overburden can be admixed with the slimes and tailings by a variety of conventional techniques.

This invention also relates to reconstituted fertile land-fill compositions having acceptable bearing strength. More particularly, it relates to a land-fill composition comprising:

a. from about 6 to about 40 parts by weight on a dry basis of slimes;

b. from about 60 to about 94 parts by weight on a dry basis of tailings; and

0. water in amount sufficient to provide a moisture content of from about 15 percent to 30 percent based on total composition weight (wet basis) wherein at least about 95 percent by weight on a dry basis of the solid particles of said composition have a particle size of minus 16 mesh, i.e., less than 1,000 microns.

The above composition preferably contains about 30-40 parts slimes, about 60-70 parts tailings, a moisture contents of about 15 to 25 percent, and at least 97 percent of the solids having a particle size of minus 16 mesh.

The above described composition may also contain from about 1 to about 50 parts by weight on a dry basis of hydrated calcium sulfate. In such cases, from 1 to 40 parts of slimes and from about 60 to 99 parts of tailings may be employed. The term hydrated calcium sulfate includes gypsum, or calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO, -2H O), and calcium sulfate hemihydrate (CaSO -l/2 H O). When the composition contains hydrated calcium sulfate, a preferred composition will contain, on a dry basis, from about -20 percent by weight slimes, 50-70 percent by weight tailings, and 20-30 percent by weight hydrated calcium sulfate, with a preferred water content of to 25 percent.

Hydrated calcium sulfate is often available in the vicinity of the phosphate rock processing plant since the rock plant is often integrated with a wet process phosphoric acid plant. It is known that CaSO, -2H O or CaSO 2% H O, depending on the process used, is a waste product of wet process phosphoric acid manufacture. This hydrated calcium sulfate can be pumped to the slimes-tailings disposal area as an aqueous slurry typically containing up to percent solids. This slurry can be either the waste slurry effluent from the phosphoric acid plant itself or it can be prepared by repulping dewatered hydrated calcium sulfate. In either case, the pH of the slurry will be acidic, i.e., pH of 1-3. Since it is desirable that the water supply of the phosphate rock processing plant be maintained on the alkaline side, it will usually be necessary to adjust the pH of the slurry to 7-8 using lime, sodium hydroxide, or other suitable means so as to prevent lowering of the pH of the rock plant water supply when the slurry is mixed with the slimes and tailings. The hydrated calcium sulfate slurry can be mixed with the slimes-tailings mixture by injecting the slurry into the pipeline carrying the slimes-tailings mixture to the disposal site, or it can be used, along with the slimes, to repulp dewatered tailings to form the mixture of slimes, tailings, and hydrated calcium sulfate. Other techniques for admixing the hydrated calcium sulfate with the slimes and tailings will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a schematic flowsheet of a preferred process of the invention.

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 represent graphically various examples of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS FIG. 1 is a schematic flowsheet of a preferred process of this invention. Referring to FIG. 1, the waste primary slimes 10 from the flotation pre-treatment process steps in a phosphate ore processing plant and the waste secondary slimes 11 from the flotation step itself are admixed to form a dilute aqueous suspension of slime solids 12 which typically contains 1-2 percent solids. Usually about percent of the total slimes produced are primary slimes with the remaining 10 percent being secondary slimes. All or a portion of the primary or secondary slimes may be used to produce stream 12. It is, of course, possible to use only the primary or only the secondary slimes to make up stream 12 if desired. Slimes stream 12 is fed to thickener 13 where it is typically thickened for 20 to 50 hours, and preferably 22-26 hours, to produce a solids content in the slimes of about 3-6 percent. The thickener underflow 14 containing 3-6 percent solids and typically 3-4 percent solids, is then fed to tank 15 whereupon it is admixed with waste tailings 16 from the flotation step. Tailings 16 are dewatered and typically contain about 20 percent water. The thickened slimes stream 14 is used to repulp tailings 16 in tank 15 to produce an aqueous slurry of a mixture of slimes and tailings 17 which is then pumped out of tank 15 to the waste disposal excavation or other suitable land reclamation site. The respective quantities of streams 14 and 16 fed to tank 15 will, of course, depend on several factors such as, for example, the ratio of tailings to slimes solids desired in the land fill composition and provision of sufficient water to render stream 17 pumpable to the excavation site. The required proportions of tailings to slimes in the land-fill compositions have been discussed hereinabove. Generally, stream 17 will contain a solids content of from about 15 to to 45 percent and preferably 40 to 45 percent.

If it is desired to add hydrated calcium sulfate to the land-fill composition, an aqueous slurry of hydrated calcium sulfate 18 from the wet process phosphoric acid plant 19 or from the calcium sulfate ponds of such a plant is fed to a suitable vessel 20 where the acid pH of stream 18 is rendered alkaline by treatment with lime. The alkaline calcium sulfate slurry 21 is there upon added to tank 15 where, along with the slimes stream 14, it serves to repulp tailings 16. Optionally stream 21 can be injected directly into the pipeline which conducts the slimes-tailings mixture 17 to the excavation site where, due to the continuous churning and mixing which occurs in the stream flowing in the pipeline, the calcium sulfate admixes with the slimestailings mixture. The quantity of stream 21 required will, of course, depend on how much hydrated calcium sulfate is desired in the land fill composition. Stream 21 can contain a wide range of solids content, usually up to about 20 percent.

The slimes-tailings mixture 17 is then pumped to an excavation which is typically a ditch a half to 1 mile or longer in length, 40 to 60 feet deep, 30 to 50 feet wide at the base and from 100 to 150-200 feet wide at the top. Mixture 17 is introduced at one end of the ditch. Once mixture 17 is deposited in the ditch, a substantial portion of the slimes tend to physically separate from the tailings and flow away from the tailings. These slimes roll on ahead of the tailings accumulating ahead of the tailings where they are then given the opportunity to concentrate to the required solids content of to 25 percent. Almost as soon as mixture 17 is deposited in the ditch, water is rapidly released from the mixture and proceeds by gravity down the ditch until it eventually reaches a dam at one end of the ditch. This dam will typically have an overflow weir which directs the overflow from the accumulated water into the fresh water return canal of the phosphate rock processing plant. After those discharged slimes which have accumulated ahead of the tailings have become concentrated to the required 10 to 25 percent solids level, the discharge pipe for mixture 17 is advanced to discharge mixture 17 onto these concentrated slimes. As the mixture is discharged, most of the slimes discharged again separate from the tailings in the mixture and flow on ahead of the tailings. The discharged tailings, however,- se ttle by gravity into the concentrated slimes and mix with these slimes to form a fertile land fill-composition of acceptable bearing strength. In effect, these concentrated slimes remix with the slimes-tailings mixture as the deposited mixture advances along the ditch. The discharged slimes-tailings mixture is gradually advanced along the length of the ditch until the ditch is substantially filled with the land-fill composition. Where desired, low check dams can be placed at intervals across the ditch to impede slimes flow and assist in concentrating the slimes solids to the 10 percent to 25 percent level where the tailings will mix with the slimes instead of merely displacing them or capping them.

It should also be noted that despite the fact that substantial portions of the slimes flow away from the tailings when the slimes-tailings mixture is deposited in the ditch, the tailings will retain as much as l to 3 percent by weight on a dry basis of the slimes even at the sur- 'face of the deposited tailings. This clay provides nutrients for plant growth and also acts as a sponge to retain the moisture necessary for plant growth and erosion inhibition. In another embodiment, land-fill is achieved by draining the water from a slimes disposal area and pumping a slimes-tailings mixture, prepared as previously described, to one end of the disposal area. The advancing mixture has a rolling motion which increases mixing with the slimes and brings about the release of substantial amounts of water ultimately providing a firm fertile soil.

In yet another embodiment, slimes from a previously employed disposal site, which have settled to between 10 percent and 25 percent solids, preferably percent to 25 percent solids, are pumped to a mixer such as a blunger, pug mill, or the like, where from 60 to 99 percent, and preferably 60 to 70 percent, by weight of tailings are mixed with the slimes whereupon the resultant mixture is deposited in an excavation from which released water can drain. The deposited mixture is firm and fertile.

The following examples are provided to further illustrate the invention.

EXAMPLE 1 permitted to settle. Percent solids in the slime portion,

percent clear water, angle of repose and bearing strength of the solids is determined on a daily basis.

Percent solids in the slimes is determined by evaporation of moisture from a weighed sample. This determination is made by heating the sample to. 140 C. until a constant weight is obtained and calculating the solids content therefrom.

Percent clear water is determined by recovering the water from the trough in which the slimes sample is stored.

Angle of repose is the angle of incline of the stacked slimes determined by measuring (1) the distance from the leading edge of the slimes to the point of introduction, (2) measuring the depth of the slimes at the point of slimes introduction and (3) calculating the angle from the leading edge to the top of the stacked slimes.

Bearing strength of the slimes is determined by placing a cylindrical container of known area on the surface of the slimes and loading the container with fine shot. When the container breaks through the surface of the slime the container is removed, weighed and the bearing strength of the sample determined.

Specificed amounts of dry tailings are added to various slimes samples at spaced time intervals to determine what effect addition of the tailings to the slimes has upon the various properties being studied.

Data obtained are presented in Tables I and II below. A portion of the data is represented graphically in FIGS. 2 and 3. The data clearly show that each admixture of tailings with slimes not only significantly enhances the rate of dewatering of the slimes but also results in the recovery of substantial additional amounts of clear water from the slimes. For example, the data of FIG. 2 indicate that whereas a dilute slimes (2 percent solids) had concentrated only to about 8 percent solids in 60 days, when tailings were added to the dilute slimes, a solids level of about 20 percent was achieved in somewhat less than 60 days. Similarly, while only about percent of the water present in the dilute slimes was recovered as clear water after 60 days, percent was recovered as clear water in the same time period in the case where tailings were added to the dilute slimes sample. This represents almost a 29 percent increase in the amount of water recovered from the slimes.

A comparison of the bearing strength data of Tables I and II reveals that slimes have substantially no bearing strength whatever whereas slimes-tailings mixtures have appreciable bearing strengths provided that the slime used to prepare the mixture had a solids content of about 10 percent by weight or higher.

Results substantially similar to those obtained above were observed when the Florida plant slimes were replaced with Sydney Primary Slimes.

TABLE I.-SLIMES SETTLING TESTS Percent Bearing solids of Percent Angle strength of Time slimes clear of solids (lb./ Sample (days) portion water repose sq. in.)'

0 2.15 0 1 .02 1 5. 50 61 1 02 2 6.15 65 1 .02 3 6. 52 67 1 .02 4 6. 72 68 1 .02 5 6. 72 68 1 02 Plant slimes 6 g, 6.95 69 1 02 7 6.95 69 1 02 Weight required to break through surface.

EXAMPLE 3 1n the following land reclamation test, a cut or ditch, approximately 8,500 feet long and averaging 38 feet in depth and 136 feet in width at the top, was filled with approximately 1,219,038 tons of plant tailings and 87,382 tons of plants slimes in accordance with the process of this invention. Across the exit end of the cut there was erected a dam and an overflow weir leading to the fresh water return canal of the phosphate rock processing plant. Tailings from the phosphate process-' ing plant were pulped with return water and pumped to the out where they were deposited as land fill. Approximately 3,400 feet of the cut was filled in this manner before the process of the invention was then put into use. The waste disposal area at this time has good bearnsfit e s h by is tic t s-w- M- W At this point, the plant slimes thickener was run to produce maximum underflow density. The thickened TABLE II.-SLIMES-TAILINGS MIXTURE, SETTLING TESTS Percent Percent Bearing of tailsolids of Percent strength of ings Time slimes clear Angle of solids (lbs. Smnplo added" (days) portion water rcposo sq. in.)

0 0 2. 15 0 1 02 0 11 11. 05 00 1 02 2 l0 7. 17 70 1 .02 ll 8. 30 74 1. .02 Plant slimes 16 10. 2 79 2. 25 03 l7 l0. 7 80 2. 25 03 .24 11.3 81 4. 00 15 15. 4 86 6. 00 20 64 1t). 5 80 20. 0 4. 5

Ratio of tailings to slime-solids dry basis. Weight required to break through surl'zu'v.

EXAMPLE 2 Glass graduated cylinders are filled with plant slimes containing approximately 2 percent solids. The slimes are permitted to settle and, as the solids concentration increases, tailings are added to determine their effect on the settled slimes. 1

Tailings added to the slimes having from about 2 tol 10 percent solids settle downward through the slimesl and stratify at the bottom of the cylinder.

Tailings added to slimes having from 10 to 25 percent solids mix with the slimes and remain suspendedi therein.

Tailings added to slimes having greater than 25 per-. cent solids remain on the surface of the slimes and. bridge across the cylinder. Thus, to obtain desired ad-I mixture of the tailings and slimes, without utilizing a mixing device, it is essential to concentrate the slimes solids to between about 10 percent and 25 percent, and preferably 11 percent to 15 percent, prior to loading .with tailings or a tailings-slimes mixture.

To utilize this discovery in the reclamation of land, 1 percent to about 40 percent (by dry weight) of slimes having 10 percent to 25 percent solids are mixed with about 60 percent to 99 percent by weight (dry basis) of dewatered waste tailings from the phosphate flotation system to form a land-fill composition. Water which drains from the resultant mixture is removed. The mixtures are placed in outdoor plots and planted with Bermuda grass. A firm soil with good grass coverage is obtained.

slimes underflow containing about 3.5-4.0 percent solids and typically 3 to 6 percent solids was used to repulp thedewatered plant tailings and the resulting mixture was then pumped to the disposal cut. The mixture contained a solids content of about 15-18 percent by weight at this time. Due to the nature of the mixture, the slimes tended to separate and run ahead of the tailings after the mixture was discharged into the cut. However, analysis of the soil samples showed that at least about 1 percent to 3 percent of slimes (dry weight) are trapped within the tailings despite separation of most of the slimes. This improves fertility and compaction as the clay contained in the slimes retains a substantial amount of moisture.

Since some initial separation of the slimes was evident small check dams were placed across the cut at intervals along its length. The dams impeded the advance of the densifying slimes permitting the clear water to proceed down the cut. When the separated slimes thickened to about 10 percent to 15 percent solids, mixing of these thickened slimes with the now advancing slimes-tailings mixture occurred. Such mixing improved the release of water from the slimes. This is evidenced by the fact that by utilizing the process of the present invention, some 71 million gallons of water was recovered that would not have been recovered by using conventional tailings and slimes disposal systems. The 1,219,038 tons of tailings processed would have required 560 acre feet (at lbs/ft) and the 87,382 tons of slimes treated would have required 252 acre 'feet, or a total disposal area of 812 acre feet (at 22.5

EXAMPLE 5 A slimes-tailings mixture containing about 17 parts slimes (dry basis) and 58.6 parts tailings (dry basis) is prepared substantially as described in FIG. 1. A gyp- The tailings having a solids content of 78.00 percent 5 Sum 4 2 fy having a Solids content by weight had the following screen analysis (dry basis). about P y Y anda P of apout 2 treated with sufficrent time or sod1um hydroxide to adjust the pH thereof to 7-8. The gypsum slurry is pumped to the discharge pipe carrying the slimes- M 11 es +12 20 35 48 65 m 150 200 325 tallmgs mixture and in ected into this pipe in sufficlent Percent 344 quantity to provide the following land-fill composition on a dry basis:

slimes: 17 parts Pertinent data on the batches prepared are listed betailings: 58.6 parts low: gypsum: 24.4 parts Slimes Percent Tnilings, Batch solids Pounds Lb. water Lb. water dry total Batch number 111 slimes Solids initial added pounds wt.(1b.)

0. so 27 as o. 00 5. 2s 17. 24 s 0. so 2. 3s 4. 50 5. 26 12. 74 1. 2o 4. 76 6. 02 1o. 52 22. 50 12 1. 4. 76 4. 02 10. 52 20.50 14 1. so 7. 14 a. s9 16. 17 29. 00 10 1. so 7. 14 2. 29 16. 17 27. 40 18 1.80 7. 14 1. 04 16. 17 2e. 15 20. 1 1. so 7. 14 o 16. 17 25. 11

Control sample batches, or blanks containing no tail- The above mixture is then transported by pumping to ings, were prepared with slimes to water ratios as in the discharge cut. This mixture provides a means of in- Samples numbers 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8. creasing the bearing characteristics of the soil and also Except for controls, all sample containers were covprovides a composition that will support plant life by ered until after the initial testing whereupon they were the addition of soil supplement (calcium). While the uncovered for the duration of the other tests. Controls composition given above is what would be considered were left open. Temperatures ranged from 70-85 F. typical, the amount of the constituents could be varied Results of bearing strength tests are shown below in Table IV;

with respect to the amount of calcium sulfate dihydrate or hemihydrate. Gypsum could also be added to the 'lAlllrlC lV. HEARING STRENGTH (l.S.l.) TEST RESULTS lorcoul. solids in slimes Sample days '1 8 10 12 14 16 18 20. 1

slimes-tailings mixture 6 1046 1345 1521 200i) 2149 .4211 .4432 7 1874 1989 1808 3258 3405 5396 5607 5990 Controls: no tailings added .0014 0020 .0030 .0041 0021 0027 0030 0040 *Average value.

7, The 7 day bearing strengths of the slimes-tailings mixtures are depicted graphically in FIG. 4 whereir'i it can be clearly seen that it is only when the slimes which are admixed with the tailings have a solids content of at least about 10 percent that the resulting slimestailings land-fill composition has acceptable bearing strength. The dramatic and unexpected increase in bearing strength which occurs at a slimes solids content of 10 percent is readily apparent from an insepction of FIG. 4.

The data of Table IV also indicate that the bearing strength of the slimes-tailings mixtures increases significantly as time progresses such increase being due in all likelihood, to the enhanced dewatering of the slimes which is occurring by virtue of the addition of tailings to the slimes in accordance with the process of this invention.

1. A process for enhancing the rate at which water is removed from the waste slimes of ore processing operations, said slimes comprising an aqueous suspension of solid particles at least 99 percent by weight (dry basis) of which have a particle size smaller than microns (minus mesh), which comprises the steps of admixing waste tailings from ore processing operations with said slimes to produce a slimes-tailings mixture, said tailings comprising solid particles 95 percent by weight (dry basis) of which have a particle size in the range of 105 to 1,000 microns (-16 +150 mesh), the particle size of a major portion of the tailings being larger than about 65 mesh, and withdrawing the water released from said mixture to produce a fertile soil, wherein said slimes contain a solids content of from about percent to about 25 percent by weight and wherein tailings are added in an amount sufficient to produce a slimestailings mixture which contains, on a dry basis, from about 60 percent to about 99 percent by weight (dry basis) tailings.

2. A process according to claim 1 wherein said slimes and tailings are derived from a phosphate rock processing plant.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3451788 *Jan 18, 1965Jun 24, 1969Ideal Basic Ind IncMethod of slimes elimination in potash ore treatment
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US3680698 *Feb 25, 1970Aug 1, 1972Occidental Petroleum CorpProcess for the treatment of slimes and waste solids
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3931006 *Oct 17, 1974Jan 6, 1976Great Canadian Oil Sands LimitedMethod of reducing sludge accumulation from tar sands hot water process
US3956119 *Feb 19, 1974May 11, 1976Mobil Oil CorporationFlocculation process
US4017392 *Dec 22, 1975Apr 12, 1977International Minerals & Chemical CorporationOrganic peroxides as slime settling agents
US4035293 *Jul 17, 1975Jul 12, 1977S.A. Texaco Belgium N.V.Process for treating an acidic waste water stream
US4051027 *Dec 22, 1975Sep 27, 1977International Minerals & Chemical CorporationSettling clay-containing slimes
US4217212 *Jun 19, 1978Aug 12, 1980Deal Troy MMethod of pumping and processing phosphate slime for land reclamation
US4257898 *Dec 3, 1979Mar 24, 1981Uhde GmbhMethod of processing waste sludge from wet phosphoric acid purification facilities
US4265770 *Nov 9, 1979May 5, 1981Amstar CorporationSeparation of suspended solids from phosphate tailings
US4279635 *Jun 27, 1979Jul 21, 1981David KrofchakProcess for treating phosphatic clay suspensions
US4300939 *Jun 30, 1980Nov 17, 1981Uhde GmbhMethod of processing waste sludge from wet phosphoric acid purification acid purification facilities
US4347140 *Jan 13, 1981Aug 31, 1982Alsthom-AtlantiqueInstallation for and a method of spreading clayey mud and reclaiming land
US4563285 *Aug 9, 1984Jan 7, 1986The Trustees Of Columbia University In The City Of New YorkMethod for dewatering phosphate slimes
US4611951 *Oct 7, 1985Sep 16, 1986American Cyanamid CompanyProcess for reclamation of excavated mine sites
US6161308 *Mar 19, 1999Dec 19, 2000Bentley; Michael DavidSlimes treatment
US6231767 *Feb 16, 1999May 15, 2001Claytech Enviromental Services Inc.Treatment of phosphatic wastes
US20040144731 *Nov 21, 2003Jul 29, 2004Hartung Ronald F.Process for treatment of mineral clay slurry
USRE31179 *Aug 3, 1981Mar 15, 1983Uhde GmbhMethod of processing waste sludge from wet phosphoric acid purification facilities
WO1999047281A1 *Mar 19, 1999Sep 23, 1999Anglo Operations LimitedSlimes treatment
U.S. Classification210/714, 71/901, 210/907, 71/903
International ClassificationC02F11/12, C05B17/00
Cooperative ClassificationC02F11/12, Y10S71/903, C05B17/00, Y10S210/907, Y10S71/901
European ClassificationC05B17/00, C02F11/12