Tailings and Mine Waste Conference

Tubifex : A biological method for dewatering oil sands tailings Yang, Xiaojuan; de Lucas Pardo, Miguel; Deng, Lijun; Ulrich, Ania; Sittoni, Luca; Chen, Qun


In Northern Alberta’s oil sands region, there are more than 800 million m³ tailings occupying more than 180 km² of tailings ponds. The suspended solids (mostly silts and clays), gradually densify to 25 to 40 wt% solids in 2-5 years. It is important to assist in the dewatering process of oil sands tailings to facilitate their reclamation. An innovative method is presented in this paper to address the challenges with rapid dewatering using self-reproductive earth worms, Tubifex, which offers the potential to improve the dewatering. Comparable column tests between Tubifex-treated and non-treated oil sands tailings were conducted. Test results showed that: (a) the solid-water mud line of Tubifex-treated tailings decreases faster than non-treated tailings; (b) after settling within 2 month, the solids content of Tubifex-treated tailings was 21% more than the non-treated tailings, and 15% more than the initial tailings which have been under self-weight consolidation for years. Test results imply that the Tubifex treatment method may be promising in the settling and dewatering of oil sand tailings.

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