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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: Mar.2, 2010


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:: Meet BRaDD: Here to Tackle the Challenge of Bauxite Residue

An on-line database developed by a Parker Centre/CSIRO Light Metals Flagship research team has for the first time provided industry, government, researchers and environmental groups with a one-stop, searchable resource containing all public information on bauxite residues, including their characteristics and storage, and details of the original bauxite.

The Bauxite, Residue and Disposal Database (BRaDD) was developed as part of an Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development & Climate project funded by the Australian Government. The project focuses on developing economically viable and environmentally acceptable solutions to the large global volumes of bauxite residue.

Bauxite residue (red mud) is generated as a by-product during the processing of alumina (the feedstock for aluminium production) from bauxite ores. With no successful large-scale commercial uses found thus far, the majority of the residue produced continuously during the 117-year-long history of the alumina industry has ended up stored on land in disposal areas.

“The level and types of residue-related information in the database, and the ability to readily interrogate it, make BRaDD an invaluable research and planning tool for anyone with an interest in bauxite residue and its impact on the environment or its potential uses," says Project Leader Dr Craig Klauber.

BRaDD includes verifiable, up-to-date profiles of most bauxite-processing alumina refineries known to the team: 90 refineries spread across six continents. “BRaDD provides the first ever worldwide picture across time of the refinery practices, technologies, engineering and science behind bauxite residue management, disposal and storage," says Project Leader Dr Craig Klauber.

“Thanks to BRaDD, we now know that worldwide inventory of bauxite residue had reached 2.0 billion tonnes in 2000, and will hit 4.0 billion tonnes around 2015 at its current growth rate of about 120 million tonnes per annum," notes Dr Klauber. “We know the history of disposal practices, where the residue is located and in many cases we also know the nature and volume of the residue in each location. This is critical information when researching options for residue utilisation because options will only succeed if a local need can be met with a local source."

Current promising applications for using up large amounts of bauxite residue include utilisation in construction materials such as concrete and road base or in agricultural additives for soil problems. Development of improved means of storage and rehabilitation of disposal areas are other potential options to assist with the problem of bauxite residue.

The database enables comparisons between refineries in a way not previously possible. “Alumina companies can use BRaDD to benchmark one refinery against multiple other refineries over a considerable period of time," says Dr Klauber. “For example, the thickener technology used for residue de-watering in different refineries, or the engineering design of the residue disposal area, can be tracked through time."

While BRaDD pulls all the public domain residue data scattered over a wide range of sources into the one location, this data, whilst already proving to be invaluable, represents the tip of an information iceberg with a considerable proportion not in the public domain.

The team is currently seeking relevant, citable company information to add to the public component to ensure that this free-of-charge database reaches its full potential as the world’s only comprehensive bauxite residue resource of use.

“We ran a workshop for industry representatives on 14 February at the 2010 TMS (The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society) annual meeting in Seattle (USA), at which we demonstrated BRaDD’s capabilities and invited industry input," Dr Klauber says. “The response to the database by the attendees was overwhelmingly positive with many useful suggestions made for filling the data gaps."




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