This research aims to analyze the impact of sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) as a rheological modifier of concentrated kaolin slurries in seawater at pH 8, which is characteristic of copper sulfide processing operations. The dispersion phenomenon was analyzed through chord length measurements using the focused beam reflectance measurement (FBRM) technique, complementing size distributions in unweighted and square-weighted modes. The reduction of the rheological properties was significant, decreasing from 231 Pa in a reagent-free environment to 80 Pa after the application of STPP. A frequency sweep in a linear viscoelastic regime indicated that by applying a characteristic dosage of 0.53 kg/t of STPP, the pulp before yielding increases its phase angle, which increases its liquid-like character. Measurements of the chord length verified the dispersion of particles, which showed an apparent increase in the proportion of fine particles and a reduction of the coarser aggregates when STPP was applied. Measurements of the zeta potential suggested that the high anionic charge of the reagent (pentavalent) increases the electrostatic repulsions between particles, overcoming the effect of cations in seawater. The results are relevant for the mining industry, especially when the deposits have high contents of complex gangues, such as clays, that increase the rheological properties. This increases the energy costs and water consumption needed for pumping the tailings from thickeners to the tailing storages facilities. The strategies that allow for the improvement of the fluidity and deformation of the tailings generate slack in order to maximize water recovery in the thickening stages.

Keywords: clays; seawater; sodium tripolyphosphate; particle dispersion; yielding; viscoelasticity