The novel cationic flocculant, poly(lactic acid) choline iodide ester methacrylate (poly(PLA4
ChMA)), has been shown to provide improved flocculation of 5.0 wt.% mature fine tailings (MFT) diluted in deionized water compared to commercial anionic polymers, with continued dewatering of the sediment occurring as the polymer undergoes partial hydrolytic degradation. However, the elevated dosages (10,000 ppm) required would make the polymer costly to implement on an industrial scale. With this motivation, the impact of MFT loading and the use of process water is explored while comparing the settling performance of poly(PLA4
ChMA) to available commercial alternatives such as anionic FLOPAM A3338. Improved consolidation of 5.0 wt.% MFT diluted with process water could be achieved at reduced dosages (500 ppm) with poly(PLA4
ChMA). However, the final compaction levels after polymer degradation were similar to those achieved with the nondegradable commercial flocculants. Flocculation-filtration experiments with undiluted MFT are also conducted to compare the performance of the polymers. Significantly faster rates of water release were observed with the cationic flocculants compared to FLOPAM A3338, but no improvement in the overall tailings compaction was found either before or after poly(PLA4
ChMA) degradation. Thus, the improved dewatering observed with poly(PLA4
ChMA) in dilute MFT suspensions does not extend to conditions that would be encountered in the field.
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