Bauxite residue neutralisation precipitate stability in acidic environments

Sara J. Couperthwaite, Sujung Han, Talitha Santini, Gurkiran Kaur, Dean W. Johnstone, Graeme J. Millar, Ray L. Frost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental context Although land remediation programs for bauxite residues aim at vegetation coverage, the stability of compounds in the residues with acids produced by the vegetation has not been investigated. We show that, despite the instability of caustic components in the residues (negative effects on plant development), this instability actually assists in neutralising acidic soils. These results further affirm the suitability and sustainability of current land remediation programs for bauxite residues in terms of minimising acidic soil formation. Abstract This investigation used a combination of techniques, such as X-ray diffraction, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy, to determine the dissolution mechanisms of the Bayer precipitate and the associated rate of dissolution in acetic, citric and oxalic acid environments. The Bayer precipitate is a mixture of hydrotalcite, calcium carbonate and sodium chloride that forms during the seawater neutralisation of Bayer liquors (waste residue of the alumina industry). The dissolution rate of a Bayer precipitate is found to be dependent on (1) the strength of the organic acid and (2) the number of donating H+ ions. The dissolution mechanism for a Bayer precipitate consists of several steps involving: (1) the dissolution of CaCO3, (2) formation of whewellite (calcium oxalate) when oxalic acid is used and (3) multiple dissolution steps for hydrotalcite that are highly dependent on the pH of solution. The decomposition of the Al-OH hydrotalcite layers resulted in the immediate formation of Al(OH)3, which is stable until the pH decreases below 5.5. This investigation has found that the Bayer precipitate is stable across a wide pH range in the presence of common organic acids found in the rhizosphere, and that initial decomposition steps are likely to be beneficial in supporting plant growth through the release of nutrients such as Ca2+ and Mg2+.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-464
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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