IAI Releases Updated Sustainable Bauxite Residue Management Guidance

The International Aluminium Institute has published updated guidelines for the sustainable management of bauxite residue. This is a revision of the Bauxite Residue Management Best Practice published in 2015.

The Sustainable Bauxite Residue Management Guidance document, explores and explains the lifecycle of bauxite residue and, through relevant case studies, shows how stakeholders can play an active role in its sustainable management.

Bauxite, the primary aluminium-rich ore, is found widely around the world, with global reserves estimated at 30 billion tonnes, and resources of between 55 to 75 billion tonnes.

Bauxite residue – also known as ‘red mud’ – is produced when extracting alumina from bauxite via the Bayer Process, which the aluminium industry has used since the 1800s. In 2020 global alumina production was estimated at 133 million tonnes. For every tonne of alumina produced approximately 1.2 tonnes of residue is generated.

Because of its alkalinity, bauxite residue needs to be stored in Bauxite Residue Storage Facilities (BRSF) until closed and rehabilitated into safe and stable landforms able to support vegetation and other land-uses. In some instances, residue can be used as raw material for other products or potentially valuable materials can be extracted from it.

“As aluminium production has increased, so has bauxite residue – estimated at almost 170 million tonnes generated in 2021. We’ll need to continue to manage bauxite residue in a sustainable way through innovative treatment, remediation, rehabilitation and utilisation options. This document aims to provide an overview of the varied approaches that can be adopted to minimise the impacts of bauxite residue from the facility design phase through to operation, closure and rehabilitation” says Pernelle Nunez, IAI Deputy Secretary General and Director of Sustainability.

Roberto Seno, Vice-Chair of the IAI’s Bauxite and Alumina Committee and Technology Manager at Companhia Brasileira de Alumínio said “the IAI and the aluminium sector continues to research how to extract the valuable materials remaining in bauxite residue or use the residue for other production uses. Many opportunities have been identified – some of which, while technically feasible, are not yet economically viable. One of the most promising however has been residue as a raw material for cement production which presents a major opportunity for both industries and growing its bulk consumption is a focus in a number of regions.”

Eugenio Azevado, Chair of the IAI’s Bauxite and Alumina Committee and Vice President Continuous Improvement at Alcoa  said “residue management goals require a culture of continuous improvement. An ideal future state would be producing zero residue but where this is not yet possible, we want to manage the residue safely stored in Bauxite Residue Storage Facilities (BRSF) so that we can rehabilitate and revegetate them or prepare them for the next useful land use. Residue management is not “one-size fits all” and technology selection and management practices need to be adapted to specific local circumstances.”

Download the updated guidance here.