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Effect of particle size on the flocculation behaviour of ultra-fine clays in salt solutions

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The Athabasca oil sands deposit in Alberta contains ~5 x 109 m3 of bitumen accessible by surface mining. During bitumen separation from the mined ore, ultra-fine (<300 nm) aluminosilicate clays only a few layers thick (U/F) are mobilized and become dispersed in the process water. In this water containing dissolved salts from natural deposits, U/F are capable of forming thixotropic gels. The consequence of this is the production of large volumes of mature fine tailings (MFT) with a high water holding capacity. For mine planning purposes, the objective of predicting and possibly mitigating MFT formation requires an understanding of the colloidal behaviour of U/F particles in salt solutions. In this work, photon correlation spectroscopy and the deuterium NMR method are used to provide an insight into the U/F floc formation process. These results are correlated with conventional analysis of settling data.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology, Montreal Road Campus, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0R6

Publication date: 01 March 1998

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