Experimental simulation of long term weathering in alkaline bauxite residue tailings

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    Abstract

    © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Bauxite residue is an alkaline, saline tailings material generated as a byproduct of the Bayer process used for alumina refining. Developing effective plans for the long term management of potential environmental impacts associated with storage of these tailings is dependent on understanding how the chemical and mineralogical properties of the tailings will change during weathering and transformation into a soil-like material. Hydrothermal treatment of bauxite residue was used to compress geological weathering timescales and examine potential mineral transformations during weathering. Gibbsite was rapidly converted to boehmite; this transformation was examined with in situ synchrotron XRD. Goethite, hematite, and calcite all precipitated over longer weathering timeframes, while tricalcium aluminate dissolved. pH, total alkalinity, and salinity (electrical conductivity) all decreased during weathering despite these experiments being performed under “closed” conditions (i.e., no leaching). This indicates the potential for auto-attenuation of the high alkalinity and salinity that presents challenges for long term environmental management, and suggests that management requirements will decrease during weathering as a result of these mineral transformations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1241-1261
    JournalBiometals
    Volume5
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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