UL leads major European partnership to address environmental impact of alumina production

A major European partnership BRAVO co-ordinated by the University of Limerick seeks to address the environmental challenges of alumina production waste.BRAVO which stands for “Bauxite Residue and Aluminium Valorisation Operations” is one of the largest commitments of its kind with over 30 partner members including large Industry, SMEs, leading Universities and Institutes throughout Ireland and the EU.

Co-ordinator, Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, Department of Design and Manufacturing Technology, UL explains: “Alumina processing creates a waste by-product called bauxite residue (red mud) which is normally landfilled. It is estimated that globally there is currently over 2.7 billion tonnes of bauxite residue stored in landfill and this is estimated to increase by 120 million tonnes annually. There is  however a huge potential to re-use this material as a valuable raw material for other industries such as cement, ceramics and electronics. This partnership has been setup to address a serious environmental issue while also providing the opportunity to generate spin-off industries in the alternative supply of key materials for the European market.”

Ireland houses one of Europe’s largest alumina refineries in Co. Limerick with an annual production capacity of 1,990,000 tonnes of alumina and employment of approx. 450 people. The refinery produces approximately 1 million tonnes of bauxite residue annually which is currently stored in a 180 ha engineered impoundment, making BRAVO a highly relevant partnership for state of the art bauxite residue management and the opportunity to turn this waste in a potential resource.
Dr Jonathan Derham, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said; “The extraction and processing of primary and secondary minerals are essential aspects of our economy, societal health and our wellbeing. There are environmental challenges associated with the minerals industry, not least of which being the finite resource available on our planet.  We have to maximise the utility of minerals through their value chain and mitigate any environmental burden associated with the minerals cycle: only in this way will we approach the necessary conditions for sustainability.  The BRAVO partners take on this challenge for the aluminium cycle and I am really confident in their potential for success.”

BRAVO is a six year commitment to meet an important objective of boosting the innovation capacity by using waste residue as a potential source of critical high value raw materials. The waste residue has been found to contain fractions of these high value materials which have been identify by the EU as under a potential supply risk as these materials are usually imported to Europe. BRAVO will work with its 31 partners to foster international co-operation to undertake this challenge as well as promote socially acceptable and environmentally responsible technologies.
BRAVO partners include: University of Limerick (Co-ordinators), Ceinnmat (Spain), International Aluminium Institute (UK),  Rusal (Ireland),  Ecocem (France), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Tecnicas Reunidas (Spain), Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (Spain), Aidico (Spain), Votechnik (Ireland), Geonardo (Hungary), Tecnalia (Spain), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), Fraunhofer (Germany), Loser Chemie (Germany), National Technical University of Athens (Greece), BRGM (France), Environment Protection Agency (Ireland), Acciona (Spain), University of Hull (UK), Sintef (Norway), Enval (UK), Hydro Aluminium (Norway), TU Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), UC Rusal Engineering and Technology Centre LLC (Russia), Euromine (Belgium), Alteo Gardanne (France), National Agency for New technologies, Energy and Sustainable development (Italy), European Aluminum Association, Universita di Napoli (Italy), and Rio Tinto ( France).