Vedanta, India’s largest producer of aluminium and its value-added products, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for value-creation from bauxite residue (red mud), which is a by-product generated during processing of bauxite into alumina using the Bayer process. Bauxite is the primary ore for aluminium, that undergoes an intermediate refining stage to produce alumina, which then undergoes electrolysis for producing aluminium. Abundantly available on earth’s crust, mining of bauxite is one of the most inherently sustainable mining processes. Approximately three tonnes of bauxite produce one tonne of alumina, and around two tonnes of alumina are required to produce one tonne of aluminium.
Bauxite residue has many metal values like Iron, Alumina, Rare Earth Elements (REE) and Titanium Dioxide. Creating indigenous capabilities for extraction of REEs from bauxite residue has been the brainchild of NITI Aayog, given the importance of Scandium for defence and its scarce availability in India which resulted in import dependency. As it is a voluminous by-product, bauxite residue requires scientific ways of managing it, and even more advanced methodologies to extract commercial value from it.
Along with peer aluminium producers, Vedanta has entered into the partnership with three research institutes namely CSIR-National Metallurgical Laboratory (NML), Jamshedpur, Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT), Bhubaneswar, and Jawaharlal Nehru Aluminium Research, Development & Design Centre (JNARDDC), Nagpur. As part of this, all three research institutes shall work together to develop technologies for bauxite residue utilisation, like red mud beneficiation for REE enrichment, recovery of alumina values, recovery of iron values and process for extraction and separation of Titanium and REEs (La, Ce, Y, Sc). Once established, the processes will be validated through an integrated facility.