Emirates Global Aluminium has signed an agreement with The University of Queensland, Australia, to conduct a three-year research programme into turning a by-product of the alumina industry into soil.

The ground-breaking research project with The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences will investigate combining bauxite residue with agricultural and domestic wastes to create a soil for greening and other uses.

The research project is led by Professor Richard Haynes, a renowned soil scientist and expert in the remediation and rehabilitation of bauxite residue deposits. Universities in the United Arab Emirates are expected to join the research project in the coming years, to help tailor the soil for the UAE’s desert conditions.

Bauxite residue is a by-product of alumina refining - the process of turning bauxite ore into alumina which is the feedstock for aluminium smelters.
EGA is constructing the first alumina refinery in the United Arab Emirates, next to its Al Taweelah smelter in Abu Dhabi.

Industry experts estimate that at least 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue are produced worldwide each year. It is thought that less than two percent of this is currently put to productive use.

While new productive uses for bauxite residue are being developed, EGA will operate a dedicated storage site in line with current world-class best practice, about 30 kilometres inland from the coast in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi.

When Al Taweelah alumina refinery starts production, bauxite residue will be washed, pressed into a dry cake, and transported to the area for permanent managed storage. The site will eventually be covered and used for other industrial purposes.

EGA intends to reduce and aims to even eliminate the need to store new bauxite residue in the longer term.

Abdalla Alzarooni, EGA’s Vice President of Technology Development & Transfer said: “The project at The University of Queensland is cutting edge research that could turn waste into a useful product that fills a need in the UAE. The UAE has set tough targets for the use of bauxite residue, which requires us to take a global lead in finding innovative solutions.”