Abstract

Coarse and fine refuse is produced by various coal processing equipment. For instance, fine tailings (100-500µm) are produced by froth flotation cells, whereas coarse fractions (up to 50 mm) constitute cyclone rejects. The relatively wet fine tailings have limited use in construction activities and they are generally pumped as slurries into tailings ponds. The coarse rejects have a greater engineering applicability and are utilized in the construction of tailings dams, mine access roads as well as for landfill and ballast. This study investigates the fundamental engineering properties of blended tailings, where- by appropriate fractions of flotation tailings are mixed with cyclone rejects to produce an acceptable construction or rehabilitation fill. In particular, a practical procedure to optimize the blended ratios is proposed on the basis of fundamental geotechnical testing. The applications of relevant tests are described, including Proctor compaction, California Bearing Ratios, triaxial and consolidation tests. The results confirm that blending of fines with coarse rejects enables enhanced dry densities associated with reduced permeabilities, higher shear and compressive strengths, lower consolidation settlements and increased bearing capacities. The addition of a small quantity of cement (2-5%) further improves the engineering properties of the blended matrix. The practical findings of this study should encourage coal processing plants to modify their existing disposal methods to adopt more efficient co-disposal schemes. Optimization of procedures for discarding fine and coarse rejects together would generate substantial savings, with regard to dewatering of wet tailings and rehandling of distinctly different waste gradations.

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