Building From Bauxite Residues

12 February 2020 - // Interviews
Christian Leroy
Senior Consultant Innovation & LCA

The world’s main source of aluminum – the mining of bauxite rock – is detrimental to the environment, with the rock residues often discarded during the extraction and production of aluminum. However, the RemovAL project is making it possible to recover and process the bauxite residues for use in construction and building materials.

Why does bauxite residue build-up in Europe need to be addressed?

The valorization of bauxite residue is a global problem. It is an acute issue in Europe due to the limited land availability and the high environmental awareness. Bauxite residues are usually disposed of in controlled areas of 1-3 square kilometers close to a given alumina plant. The storage capacity is limited, and some alumina plants are facing difficulties to get permits to expand their areas to dispose of bauxite residue. There is a need to valorize this residue in order to drastically reduce the quantity of bauxite residues disposed. Additionally, the remediation of these areas after industrial operations is critical as well, which is why RemovAL is also looking at treating bauxite residue from closed alumina plants.

How will the network of ‘technological nodes’ from the 6 pilot plants help to valorize the bauxite residue?

RemovAL includes 6 pilot plants that form a network of ‘technological nodes’, enabling the processing of bauxite residue. The validation process is carried out by three European alumina producers (representing 44% of the European alumina production). The bauxite residue composition and reactivity can vary significantly and are dependent on the bauxite origins. Additionally, the use of the bauxite residue or its derived by-products by other sectors or industries highly depends on the local eco-system and industrial network. The RemovAL concept is to develop various processes which can be combined to develop an optimized processing route maximizing profitability and environmental soundness. This flexible approach will maximize the outcomes of the project and the probability to develop sustainable processing routes for the various industrial cases addressed in the project.

How is RemovAL attempting to create a near zero-waste process chain and contribute to the circular economy?

The direct involvement of the other sectors (e.g. cement, construction, insulation) in RemovAL enables us to directly integrate their requirements and specifications for using bauxite residue and its derivatives in their marketed products. The combination of flexible processing routes and the integration of the key user sectors will maximize the use of bauxite residue in sold products and will then help secure the development of sustainable business models for the treatment and use of bauxite residue in Europe.

What is the demo bauxite house?

The demo house will be built next to the alumina plant of Mytilineos, the coordinator of the RemovAL project. This house will be built mostly with products made of bauxite residues, showcasing the production of new marketable building products from the building materials produced in RemovAL’s demonstrations. Additionally, inside this demo house, posters and videos will explain the main deliverables and results from the RemovAL project.

How do you plan on influencing policy with the recommendations from the project?

From the early stage of the project, RemovAL set up a specific stakeholder group where the key sectors (non-ferrous, cement, construction, ferrous) are taking part to identify the legislative obstacles and issues which may impede the development of optimized processing route. This stakeholder group will develop recommendations, especially in term of waste policy between European countries. A dialogue with local, national and EU authorities will then be organized in order to secure that such recommendations are concretely addressed in future amended legislations.

Christian Leroy
Senior Consultant Innovation & LCA

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