Improving the flocculation performance of clay-based tailings in seawater: A population balance modelling approach

Gonzalo R. Quezada, Matías Jeldres, PEDRO ADRIAN ROBLES VASQUEZ, Norman Toro, David Torres, Ricardo I. Jeldres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A population balance model described the flocculation of clay-based mining tailings in treated seawater with reduced magnesium content. For the treatment, 0.06 M of lime was added to the liquor, generating solid magnesium complexes that were subsequently removed by vacuum filtration. Magnesium content varied between 10–1440 ppm when mixing raw seawater with treated seawater. The aggregate size was analysed by the Focused Beam Reflectance Measurement (FBRM) technology. The model follows the dynamics of the aggregation-rupture and it provides a good approximation to the temporal evolution. A decrease in collision efficiency was implemented as an indicator of the polymer depletion, describing the size reduction. Lower magnesium content makes larger aggregates with a higher fractal dimension, but an increase in the concentration of clays reduces both the size of aggregates and the fractal dimension, indicating more open and porous structures, with higher permeability to the passage of fluid. The model efficiently illustrates the experimental data, with R-square (R2) greater than 0.9 and Goodness of Fit (GoF) greater than 95% in most cases, wherein the fitting parameters allowed for analysing the impact of magnesium and clays on the collision efficiency, collision frequency, and fragmentation rate. The model is predictive with few parameters, and it is potentially a powerful tool for water management optimisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number782
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Clays
  • Magnesium removal
  • Population balance models
  • Tailings flocculation
  • Treated seawater


Dive into the research topics of 'Improving the flocculation performance of clay-based tailings in seawater: A population balance modelling approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this