Surface cement consolidated tailings disposal has recently been proposed to manage tailings in the modern mining industry because it can reduce or eliminate the disadvantages of traditional tailings storage. In this study, the evolution of the macro performance and microstructure characteristics of cement consolidated tailing samples during the curing period were determined by unconfined compressive strength tests, permeability tests, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations, and mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) tests, respectively. The results show that the curing time notably affected the macro performance and microstructural properties of the hardened cement consolidated tailings samples. As the curing age increases, the compressive strength increases nonlinearly and the growth rate decreases; the permeability decreases rapidly first, then gradually stabilizes, and finally reaches a stable value; the morphology of the hydration products and microstructures continues to evolve with the hydration process; the total pore volume decreases slightly, whereas the critical pore size decreases significantly. The proportion of the pore volume in different pore size ranges can also be affected by the curing age, which results in a large pore (>200 nm) decrease, and the small pores (<200 nm) increased. In this process, the filling effect plays a major role.
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