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Hydro Partners with Wave to Recover Minerals from Red Mud

bauxite residue, also known as red mud© by Norsk Hydro

Hydro’s Alunorte alumina refinery signed a contract with Wave Aluminium to build a plant in Brazil that will work to address the challenges of bauxite residue — also known as red mud. The new plant will process bauxite residue, aiming to recover commercially valuable materials.

Bauxite residue is generated after the bauxite ore has been processed into alumina, the main raw material in aluminum production. Large quantities of bauxite residue are generated globally every year and permanently stored, which causes a number of environmental and safety challenges. The aluminum industry has been attempting to address these challenges for decades.

“We are working hard to minimize the impact of our operations. We have already eliminated the need for permanent storage of bauxite tailings in the bauxite mine, using a pioneering technology called Tailings Dry Backfill, where bauxite tailings are dried and brought back to the mined out areas prior to rehabilitation,” said John Thuestad, executive vice president for Hydro Bauxite & Alumina. “I am excited to get the bauxite residue processing plant in operation at Alunorte, further reducing the environmental footprint of our operations.”

Wave Aluminium is a global technology company, focused on the sustainable processing of alumina tailings, through a disruptive industrial route, using microwaves. The technology allows different minerals to be separated and converted into commercially viable materials.

Already, the patented technology has proved successful in laboratory scale tests, showing that bauxite residue can be turned into a resource. “The preliminary results are highly promising and indicate a revolutionary scenario for the global aluminum industry when converting residue into products,” noted Gustavo Emina, CEO of Wave Aluminium.

The new bauxite residue processing plant will be built at the Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Pará, Brazil. When it starts operation in 2024, the plant will utilize Wave’s innovative technology to process 50,000 tonnes of bauxite residue per year.

The project will also have the potential to be expanded to process 2-4 million tonnes of bauxite residue per year. This project will support Hydro’s target of achieving 10% utilization of bauxite residue generated by 2030 and eliminating the need for new permanent storage of bauxite residue by 2050.

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