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Influence of organic waste and residue mud additions on chemical, physical and microbial properties of bauxite residue sand

journal contribution
posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Benjamin JonesBenjamin Jones, R Haynes, I Phillips
Background, aim and scope: In an alumina refinery, bauxite ore is treated with sodium hydroxide at high temperatures and pressures and for every tone of alumina produced, about 2 tones of alkaline, saline bauxite processing waste is also produced. At Alcoa, a dry stacking system of disposal is used, and it is the sand fraction of the processing waste that is rehabilitated. There is little information available regarding the most appropriate amendments to add to the processing sand to aid in revegetation. The purpose of this study was to investigate how the addition of organic wastes (biosolids and poultry manure), in the presence or absence of added residue mud, would affect the properties of the residue sand and its suitability for revegetation.Materials and methods: Samples of freshly deposited residue sand were collected from Alcoa's Kwinana refinery. Samples were treated with phosphogypsum (2% v/v), incubated, and leached. A laboratory experiment was then set up in which the two organic wastes were applied at 0 or the equivalent to 60 tones ha(-1) in combination with residue mud added at rates of 0%, 10% and 20% v/v. Samples were incubated for 8 weeks, after which, key chemical, physical and microbial properties of the residue sand were measured along with seed germination. Results and discussion: Additions of residue mud increased exchangeable Na(+), ESP and the pH, and HCO (3) (-) and Na(+) concentrations in saturation paste extracts. Additions of biosolids and poultry manure increased concentrations of extractable P, NH (4) (+) , K, Mg, Cu, Zn, Mn and Fe. Addition of residue mud, in combination with organic wastes, caused a marked decrease in macroporosity and a concomitant increase in mesoporosity, available water holding capacity and the quantity of water held at field capacity. With increasing residue mud additions, the percentage of sample present as sand particles (<1 mm diameter) decreased, and the percentage present in aggregated form (>2 mm diameter) increased; greatest aggregation occurred where a combination of residue mud and poultry manure were added. Stability of aggregates, as measured by wet sieving, was greatest where poultry manure was applied. Although total organic C and soluble organic C were greater in biosolids than poultry manure treatments, the reverse was the case for microbial biomass C and basal respiration. In the biosolids and poultry manure treatments, increasing residue mud additions tended to increase soluble C, microbial biomass C and basal respiration. Germination index of watercress was highest in control samples and reduced by additions of biosolids and poultry manure which was attributed to the high EC and possibly high extractable P and NH (4) (+) . Conclusions: The concurrent addition of residue mud and organic wastes can improve chemical, microbial and particularly physical properties of residue sand. Future research should include neutralisation of the mud (e.g. with gypsum) and subsequent leaching to remove salts originating from both the mud and organic wastes.






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Peer Reviewed


Open Access


Era Eligible



Environmental science and pollution research.