Dewatering and Dry Disposal of Fine Bauxite Residue

Abbott T M,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1989
Alcoa of Australia operates three Alumina refineries in the South West of Western Australia at Kwinana adjacent to the South suburbs of Perth and at Pinjarra and Wagerup in rural settings 100 and 150 kilometres south of Perth respectively (see Figure 1). Alcoa's total alumina production is currently around five million tonnes per annum and this will increase to 5.5 million tonnes by early 1990. Further expansion of production is likely if current world aluminium demand trends continue. Alcoa's refineries utilise bauxite mined in the nearby Darling Range which is low grade by world standards having around 32 % by weight extractable alumina (by comparison Weipa bauxite yields around 55% alumina). This means that for every tonne of alumina produced two tonnes of solid wastes remain and therefore while we in Western Australia can boast of hosting the largest alumina industry in the world with around 18% of total world production we suffer from having the lion's share or 40% of the world's bauxite residues to dispose of. In its Western Australian setting the management of these residues in a manner which is acceptable to the community creates many challenges. These are primarily due to the mass and volume of waste produced, its chemical and physical characteristics and the environmental features of the local area including close proximity of neighbours, competing land uses and the presence of natural resources such as surface water and groundwater. In addition the trend towards more stringent statutory environmental controls and greater political and community awareness of environmental issues means that we must be able to demonstrate improvements that will reduce the considerable adverse impacts of past practices. Of course we must also try to keep the overall cost of residue disposal as low as possible to maintain our competitiveness with refineries which may have much smaller volumes of waste to dispose of and less environmental constraints.
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