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EGA's pilot plant revolutionises bauxite residue: a path to sustainable soil solutions

Annually, approximately 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue are generated worldwide. (Image source: EGA)

Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) reviewed its progress on construction of a pilot plant to convert bauxite residue into a manufactured soil

Present at the event was Her Excellency Dr Amna bint Abdullah Al Dahak, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

Bauxite residue, a long-standing global waste management challenge in the aluminium industry, may soon find a transformative solution through EGA’s pioneering efforts.

Annually, approximately 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue are generated worldwide, with less than 2% finding productive utilisation, experts say.

EGA's pilot plant could change this, however. It could utilise proprietary technology to swiftly convert caustic bauxite residue into an environmentally friendly raw material dubbed "Optimised Bauxite Residue." This innovative material serves as the cornerstone for EGA's manufactured soil, known as 'Turba', derived from the Arabic word for soil.

Reducing dependency on imports

The UAE, facing limited naturally occurring soil and significant annual soil imports for greening and agricultural purposes, stands to benefit greatly. Recognised as a non-renewable resource due to its centuries-long natural development process, soil plays a crucial role as the world's largest terrestrial carbon dioxide storage facility, absorbing up to 20% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. However, global soil erosion poses a threat to this vital function.

Initial studies and laboratory-scale trials suggest that EGA's Turba could potentially exhibit up to 10 times better CO2 absorption properties than natural UAE soil.

Expected to be operational in 2024, EGA's pilot plant aims to produce up to six tonnes per day of Optimised Bauxite Residue. This milestone will not only demonstrate the feasibility of industrialising EGA's process but also pave the way for large-scale trials assessing plant growth in Turba. Early findings indicate that Turba enhances plant growth while optimising water and fertiliser usage.

EGA's initiative heralds a promising shift in waste management paradigms, offering a sustainable solution while addressing critical environmental challenges.

EGA’s bauxite residue research team has already developed other potential novel applications for bauxite residue, including as a raw material for the steel, cement, and construction industries.

Al Dahak said, “...At MOCCAE, we welcome the work undertaken by businesses like EGA to invest in sustainable soil management practices, foster innovation and promote sustainable solutions. I was pleased to have the opportunity to review progress on the construction of EGA’s pilot plant…”

Abdulnasser Bin Kalban, CEO of EGA, said, “Our long-term goal is to send zero process waste to landfill, and we have made great progress. Bauxite residue is the most challenging waste stream in our industry and I am confident we are close to solving it. I look forward to industrial-scale production of our sustainable industrial soil for a better tomorrow.”