The permeability characteristics of iron tailings are one of the important factors affecting the stability of the dam. The permeability coefficient is an important indicator of its permeability. Many formulas for calculating permeability coefficient have been proposed by scholars at home and abroad. However, these formulas are mostly applicable to coarse-grained soil, and its applicability to iron tailings is not clear. Therefor it is necessary to verify the accuracy of these formula and establish a calculation model for the permeability coefficient of iron tailings. The permeability properties of iron tailings sand were analyzed from various angles such as FC value, gradation, particle size, specific surface area and inter-particle void ratio with water head test in laboratory. The results showed that the permeability coefficient of iron tailings sand is affected by the fine content. The threshold of fine content is about 40%. The traditional formula for calculating the permeability coefficient was applied, but the results are inaccurate. The relationship among permeability coefficient of the iron tailings sand and the non-uniform coefficient Cu, the curvature coefficient Cc, the average particle size, the weighted average particle size, the volume ratio surface and the interparticle void ratio es is nonlinear. It is difficult to characterize the change of permeability coefficient when the fine content is large. However, the relationship between permeability coefficient of the iron tailings sand and the effective particle size and inter-particle void ratio is linear. A formula was developed for the determination of permeability coefficient of iron tailings sand by analyzing the effective particle size and inter-particle void ratio data. It is significant for the seepage field analysis and stability calculation of the Chenkeng tailings dam. This can be used to calculate the permeability coefficient of magnetite tailings.