part of the solution

alcoa puts by-product to sustainable use

Alcoa’s research and development group (the Technology Delivery Group), based at Kwinana Refinery, has developed a carbonation and wash system to process bauxite residue, producing a by-product known as Red Sand™.

There is evidence to suggest sand supplies, particularly in the South-West of WA, are in decline and Australian construction companies are looking for alternatives. Alcoa’s Red Sand has the potential to fill this need.

“It’s literally sand, that is red in colour. It comes from our bauxite residue so it’s essentially crushed rock,” said Dr David Cooling, Alcoa’s Residue Technical Manager.

“Just as Alcoa’s actual product, aluminium, is endlessly recyclable, we’ve found ways that our by-products can be useful to the community. Research spanning over 20 years has identified a number of possible sustainable uses for bauxite residue, one of which is Red Sand,” Dr Cooling said.

“Not only does Red Sand have the potential to be a cost effective alternative to general purpose sand, it has also shown to be a high quality construction sand thanks to its excellent drainage and strength characteristics.”

Recovery and commercialisation of Red Sand would have a range of potential benefits including: as a viable substitute for increasingly scarce supplies of quarry sand; decreasing the clearing of natural bushland for sand quarries; and reducing the requirement for residue storage facilities.

Alcoa is a foundation member and key industry supporter of the WA-based Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing (CSRP), which has facilitated much of the residue reuse research effort to date. Trials associated with this research have consistently shown bauxite residue has the potential to become a useful material.

The new Perth to Bunbury Highway road network incorporated more than 2500 cubic metres of Alcoa’s Red Sand as part of road base to widen the Greenlands Road access to the new highway near Pinjarra.

“While 20 years ago our research was driven by a desire to reduce the size of our residue areas - a goal shared by our local communities - the opportunities coming from residue reuse have become much broader with several exciting possibilities,” said Dr Cooling.

Dr Cooling said Alcoa is committed to applying sustainability principles to residue.

“It’s a win win - the successful future commercialisation of Red Sand will fill a gap in the marketplace and fulfil Alcoa’s strategic goal to reduce the size of its residue areas.”

Read more about Red Sand and other residue by-products, such as Alkaloam®, at:

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Alcoa's Red Sand was used in the Perth to Bunbury Highway road network

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Dr David Cooling at Kwinana Refinery's residue area

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Alcoa's Red Sand Pilot Plant