The pipeline transport of high density thickened tailings presents interesting design challenges in considering the implementation of a tailings disposal system. The project must define the type and level of the tests to be performed in order to obtain sufficient good quality data to be incorporated in the project design basis. This was the case of the Codelco Norte Future Tailings feasibility engineering project, where a pilot plant was constructed and operated on the mine site. The Codelco Norte project considered a tailings tonnage of 230,000 tpd (metric tonnes per day) with an available tailings dam surface area of 50 km2. The design basis established from the pilot plant tests has two significant impacts on the project: The pilot test program included the design and construction of a pipe loop for conducting tests related with the pipeline transport of high density thickened tailings. A centrifugal slurry pump was used and 75 and 100 mm pipe loops, both with transparent sections, were installed. This paper describes the general configuration of the pilot plant, specifically the pipe loop tests. The most important and interesting findings are presented, with a focus on aspects related to the tailings rheology, deposition velocity, laminar flow segregation and pump performance derating.
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