Eti Aluminum is Turkey’s single primary aluminum producer and is one of the first members of the Turkish Materials Marketplace (TMM) platform. Established in 1973, the company is an integrated facility that includes the whole process from raw material to end-product.
Red mud is generated as a waste material during the refining of the bauxite ore which is also known as raw aluminum. The generated mud is regularly stored in a region close to the facility with proper permits from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. As of now, this non-hazardous mud has accumulated up to 7 million tons.
Throughout the world, red mud in similar characteristics is generated from aluminum production and it remains to be one of the primary issues the sector faces due to the quantity of the waste. Research has shown that annual red mud production around the world is around 120 million tons. This figure adds up to 2,7 billion tons when the stored and accumulated material are also taken into consideration. The currently recycled amount is relatively small.
Red mud is actually rich in aluminum and iron along with many other metals. The aluminum ratio is known to be around 15-20%. The research within the TMM project on red mud has established that iron and aluminum can be recovered from this material and can be reused in the production of construction materials like light brick and in the cement manufacturing. It has been observed that at an industrial scale, Japan, China and India are utilizing the material in cement manufacturing and comprehensive research is being conducted in Greece for high-efficient recycling of the red mud.
It has been determined that red mud can be used as a source of iron and aluminum in cement manufacturing. With this at hand, one of the platform members, a cement manufacturer, was contacted. Even though the company was aware of the opportunity it is accurate to say that the process was accelerated. After the positive outcomes of laboratory analyses of samples from Eti Aluminum the cement company decided to put the material into trial on an industrial scale. The greatest advantage was that the highly humid red mud could be dried out by Eti Aluminum to up to 70% dryness.
The industrial trial phase of this recent attempt is still in progress. Once the trial process proves to be successful, there will be a potential to utilize 45.000 tons of red mud per year. Eti Aluminum has around 270.000 tons of annually accumulated mud. So it is apparent that there is potential for other cement manufacturers as well. In parallel, research will continue to be conducted for recovering metals from the red mud as well as its utilization in other construction materials.