Hydro's Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil and Senai Institute of Innovation in Mineral technologies (ISI-TM) started a partnership this year to study the reuse of bauxite residues, which are left over after the refining process of bauxite, which takes place at Alunorte. The company will invest R$5 million (USD 1.2 million/NOK 10.7 million) in these surveys up to 2022.
"We wish to make Alunorte, the world's largest refinery outside of China, a global reference for reuse of bauxite residues, inspiring the entire segment of aluminum," says Raphael Costa, director of technology in the Bauxite & Alumina business area.
The results of these analyses may reduce the company's environmental footprint, besides promoting the increase of the useful life of the solid residue storage areas.
"Products made from bauxite residue can contribute to reducing the consumption of non-renewable raw materials, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving biodiversity," Raphael says.
Alunorte and Senai Institute have teams of professionals with extensive experience in research and development of bauxite residues. The analyses are performed in Senai's laboratories.
The research lines of the agreement evaluate the extraction of iron for the steel industry, besides application for conditioning and soil pH control, which can be used in agribusiness.
The proposal is to generate a monthly report of the work carried out. "We have reinforced our commitment to the operational stability of the plant, with the pursuit of better environmental and social practices through continuous investment in technology, innovation and projects that provide sustainable development for our region. This agreement is another step in this direction," says Carlos Neves, Chief Operational Officer of Bauxite & Alumina.
The partnership between Alunorte and Senai Institute ranges from the physical, chemical and mineralogical characterization of bauxite residue to the elaboration of conceptual plan and executive project for the implementation of a pilot plant in the company.
Globally, it is estimated that only 3% of the 150 million tonnes of residue produced annually are recycled. The objective of the agreement is to contribute to the global sustainability goal of the 25% reuse sector.
For Adriano Lucheta, director of the Senai Institute for Innovation in Mineral Technologies, it is time to break the old paradigms and consider the residues produced by the mineral chain as raw materials for other productive chains, adding value and relieving pressure on the environment.
"Through investment in innovation, we can apply the concepts of circular economics in mining and Alunorte is being the pioneer in Brazil. We are confident that it will also be a motivator for other extractive industries to enter into this new context," he says.