Red Mud: Fundamentals and New Avenues for Utilization

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Department of Chemical Engineering


Red mud is generated at a rate of up to 175.5 million tons per year. The global stockpile of red mud is near 4 billion tons. This material is hazardous with pH values from 11 to 13. Reduction of this waste is critical. Current industry practices for disposal of red mud involve different stockpiling techniques on valuable land area or disposing into critical bodies of water. This review studies processes which can reduce the negative environmental impact of red mud in an economic way. For instance, neutralization of red mud with CO2 can decrease the pH from 12.5 to 7. Treatment of red mud by this method lessens the negative environmental impact and prepares it for further processing for utilization. The current utilization rate of red mud is very low, only about 3 million tons per year are used as an additive for cement and construction. Red mud contains a large quantity of valuable minerals that can be extracted to both reduce the amount of red mud and provide value to the waste. This review investigates novel methods for treating red mud and extracting minerals like iron, titanium, and rare earth elements using a variety of smelting, direct reduction, and leaching processes. For example, the iron nugget process is a single step method to reduce iron oxides to metallic iron and separate them from red mud. Iron nuggets produced from red mud have an iron grade above 90%, which is comparable to pig iron generated by the blast furnace.

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Publication Title

Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review