This study explored the feasibility of utilizing lead–zinc tailings for phosphate removal in laboratory experiments. The adsorption isotherm, kinetics and pH effect were examined in batch experiments. The Freundlich and Langmuir isotherm models were used for data fitting. The adsorption kinetics can be best described by the simple Elovich equation. The phosphate adsorption tends to decrease with the increase of pH, from 0.37 mg P/g at pH 2.05 to 0.12 mg P/g at pH 7.01, and tends to increase from 0.12 mg P/g at pH 7.01 to 0.64 mg P/g at pH 12.52. The actual phosphate removal on the tailings could be a consequence of adsorption and precipitation reactions with Fe, Al and Ca. Due to their low cost, this type of tailings has the potential to be utilized for cost-effective removal of phosphate from wastewater.