The University of Queensland in Australia has joined forces with Rio Tinto to investigate a new technique for accessing bauxite deposits.
The new process will add value to the ore and reduces the mine’s environmental impact.
University of Queensland, School of Chemical Engineering Dr Hong Peng said that the method will convert bauxite ore waste products into usable resources and thus minimise the by-product residue.
Peng said: “Bauxite ore is necessary to produce aluminium, which is in many of the products we use every day.
“Queensland is ideally placed to benefit from this technological improvement as bauxite is abundant in north Queensland and there are already processing facilities and experts established here.”
The process can be used to recover most of the minerals to reduce the environmental impact of mining activity and is also expected to make some bauxite deposits feasible to mine.
Bauxite contains between 30% and 54% alumina, which is refined from bauxite ore using the Bayer process.
This process is used to separate alumina from the mixture of various iron oxides, titanium dioxide and aluminosilicate, which is known as the desilication product (DSP).
Peng said that the new method has environmental benefits, as well as financial benefits because the by-products can be sold.
The new technology is expected to be launched in Queensland within the next five to ten years.
Image: The new bauxite processing method has environmental and financial benefits. Photo: courtesy of The University of Queensland.