Abstract: During processing of Athabasca oil sands, the finely divided solids form an aqueous suspension, which ultimately stabilizes as a gel-like structure retaining up to 90% of the process water. This gelling phenomenon is believed to be caused by colloidal inorganic components. Kaolinite and mica are the main crystalline minerals in these colloidal solids; swelling clays are present in only trace amounts. Non-crystalline components are more concentrated in the finer fraction of the solids. Although the surfaces of the colloidal solids are virtually free of Fe, some contamination with polar organic matter is observed.