Red Mud

New Process reduces Red Mud Volume by 90 Percent

08/03/2012 | Editor: Marcel Dröttboom

Orbite Aluminae has developed a patented technology that can treat red mud.
Orbite Aluminae has developed a patented technology that can treat red mud.

Orbite Alumina has developed a patented technology that can treat red mud, the most significant waste product of the traditional Bayer process for aluminum production. Orbite’s technology converts red mud into a dry, inert, and most importantly, environmentally neutral residue that is less than 10 percent the volume of its original state.

Montreal (QC), Canada – According to Orbite, the company now offers the only ecologically sound and commercially viable alternative to manage and eliminate these toxic residues. According to the International Committee for Study of Bauxite, Alumina & Aluminium (ICSOBA), alumina producers generated in 2011 alone more than 100 million tonnes of red mud of which only 5 percent was reused. The rest is stored in ponds and reservoirs, entailing significant environmental risks. For example, on October 4, 2010, a flood of toxic red mud devastated Hungary after a retaining dyke ruptured, causing an ecological disaster. India, China, Canada, and Brasil have also been affected by spills. The environmental and social costs associated with the Bayer process and global aluminum production have become so high that several countries now oppose the development of new mining and production facilities.

Orbite’s technology is an ecological and economically viable solution to this problem. Orbite’s technology converts red mud into a dry, inert, and most importantly, environmentally neutral residue that is less than 10 percent the volume of its original state. High commercial value products are also recuperated in this process, including alumina (which can make up 25 percent of red mud), ultra-pure hematite (which is what gives the toxic residue its red colour) and magnesium oxide, as well as rare metal oxides that can have significant residual economic value. Orbite’s team of engineers has verified these results using red mud samples with properties characteristic common to those that currently confront the alumina industry. The company developed a large-scale industrial process capable of treating red mud while individually recovering its main components. Orbite now intends to license its technology to producers interested in reducing their environmental footprint and their risk of contamination, but also in reducing operating costs.

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