Dust Reduction in Bauxite Waste: Role of Gypsum, Carbonation, and Microbial Decomposition

  •  Mark Harris    


Producing alumina by the Bayer Process creates fine air borne red dust which devalues property and causes irritation to the human respiratory system. Aggregation of such inorganic particles was proposed as a dust-inhibiting corrective. Resistance to breakdown under simulated rain suggests a lower number of dust-size particles after rain. Samples of red mud waste (1) treated 10 years before the study at the 0-15 cm depth zone with 40 t ha-1 of gypsum (2) from the subjacent 15-30 cm zone, were collected, crushed and passed through a 0.5 mm diameter sieve. Leaves from Acacia senensis (a legume) were finely chopped to < 1 mm and thoroughly mixed with the sieved bauxite waste at 25- and 50%, and the samples incubated for 6 weeks at ambient room temperatures, at 60% soil water-holding capacity. To determine the fraction of potential dust, the treated samples were submerged in de-ionized water for several days until there was no change in discoloration (due to clay dislocation) of the water. The samples were removed from the water and the water evaporated and the residues dried and weighed. In total, the dust-reducing capabilities of the treatments in descending order of proficiency were: 50% phytogenic > 25% phytogenic > 0-15 cm soil depth non-phytogenic > 15-30 cm-depth non-phytogenic. The 50% phytogenic-treatment reduced potential particles of fugitive dust by 70% over the untreated controls and 95% over the crushed-only (subjacent red mud; no organics added) samples. All in all, phyto-organics increased average particle size to > 100 µm by flocculation, thereby creating stable agglomerates which resisted disintegration and breakdown under simulated rain. Reducing the concentration of < 75 μm particles in the air will decrease morbidity due to respiratory illnesses in surrounding populations, harmful effects on vegetation, and the defacement of buildings. This treatment promises the use of gypsum + phyto-organics for reducing the emanation of surface dust from red mud waste sites onto surrounding areas.

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