Bauxite residue could soon find new life as building material replacing sand and clay-based products thanks to research partnership between UAE’s Emirates Global Aluminium and the European research and technology organisation VITO NV. Alongside experts from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the two companies have been conducting research since 2017.
Research into new potential uses of bauxite residue – a by-product of alumina refining – has been conducted for many decades, but most of bauxite residue produced around the world is still stored indefinitely as waste. With around 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue produced annually around the globe, less than two per cent is at present put to use. EGA and VITO are trying to change this.
EGA and European research and technology organisation VITO intensify work to develop uses for bauxite residue in large-scale construction materials. Read more here – https://t.co/awGipWnSx2 pic.twitter.com/3NSXWLqUfb
— Emirates Global Aluminium (@egaofficial) March 5, 2019
The first study will look into using bauxite residue for constructing road foundations while replacing other building materials such as sand. The second study will seek to transform bauxite residue to replace clay-based products currently used to make concrete.
Dr Ali Alzarouni, EGA’s Executive Vice President Midstream said: “We are now moving into the next stage of this important research on the use of bauxite residue, with detailed work on specific potential applications in construction. Finding economically viable uses for bauxite residue is a global challenge. We are mindful of the scale of the task, but success here could be a breakthrough for our entire industry.”
EGA is currently building the UAE’s first alumina refinery next to its Al Taweelah smelter in Abu Dhabi. The country has to rely on imports of building materials and the proposed research could provide new locally sourced materials, thereby not only reducing UAE’s reliance on imported products but also creating a new construction materials industry, which will sustainably reutilise what now essentially constitutes a waste product.
In addition to this partnership, EGA is also working with The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences to assess how bauxite residue could be mixed with agricultural and domestic wastes to create a soil for greening. In 2017, EGA launched its first-ever sustainability report and became the first Middle East-headquartered aluminium company to join the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative to meet the highest environmental and social responsibilities in the industry.