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Vedanta Aluminium patents innovative bauxite refining process

Vedanta Aluminium has announced the development of an innovative process to significantly reduce the generation of bauxite residue.

Vedanta Aluminium in India is actively engaged in minimizing bauxite residue and exploring avenues to extract value from it

To produce 1 kg of aluminium, it requires 2 kg of alumina, which consumes 6 kg of bauxite, leaving behind 4 kg of bauxite residue, commonly known as red mud in the alumina refining process. Managing this voluminous by-product sustainably has been a long-standing industry challenge. Vedanta Aluminium in India is actively engaged in minimizing bauxite residue and exploring avenues to extract value from it.

Research project to reduce bauxite residue

The company has announced the development of an innovative process to significantly reduce bauxite residue. According to the company, the process reduces bauxite residue by a remarkable 30% by eliminating iron values while simultaneously recovering a higher alumina yield, reducing the total organic content from bauxite during the alumina refining. The process significantly enhances resource efficiency and curbs energy consumption during refining. The research project was led by Vedanta’s R&D department in collaboration with the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT KGP), with special support from the Lanjigarh, Odisha unit, home to Vedanta’s alumina refinery. The ground-breaking process has been successfully validated in the laboratory and patented. 

Pilot plant planned

This cutting-edge development will enhance the company’s operational excellence and could have a sustainable impact on producing primary aluminium. Presently, the company is focusing on establishing a pilot plant to implement and assess the process, along with determining its potential advantages. 

Chenna Rao Borra, Assistant Professor, Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Kharagpur said: “The reduction of bauxite residue has been one of the key challenges for the aluminium industry, requiring significant technological advancements. The process, developed through the collaborative efforts of IIT Kharagpur and the company, will not only significantly improve bauxite residue management but also contribute to reducing the carbon footprint in the process.”

Technology development for utilizing bauxite residue

Additionally, Vedanta Aluminium is actively collaborating with research institutes to develop innovative technologies for the utilization of bauxite residue. These technologies include the beneficiation of bauxite residue to enrich Rare Earth Elements (REEs), the recovery of alumina and iron values, and processes for extracting and separating titanium and REEs like Scandium. This effort is crucial because bauxite residue houses valuable metals, including iron, alumina, REEs, and titanium dioxide.

Commitment to water conservation

Vedanta Aluminium is the first company in India to extract the entire volume of water from bauxite residue slurry and recycle it back into operational use, achieving Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) and demonstrating its commitment to water conservation. The remaining bauxite residue is densely packed in dried form and stored in a specially constructed and scientifically managed concretized area called the Bauxite Residue Reservoir. This containment method prevents bauxite residue from inadvertently leaching into the groundwater. For this processing purpose, the company was the first in the country to establish a Bauxite Residue Processing Plant. With the new method implementation, this residue generation will be reduced further.

Vedanta Aluminium, a business of Vedanta Limited, is India’s largest producer of aluminium, producing more than half of India’s aluminium, i.e. 2.29m tonnes in FY23. The company ranks second in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) 2022 world rankings for aluminium industry. 

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