Red mud (BRM) is a solid caustic by-product/waste formed after the digestion of bauxite ore with sodium hydroxide in Bayer’s process for the extraction of alumina. More than 85 M tonnes of red mud from past metallurgical activities have been landfilled in the countries of the Western Balkans, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece and Hungary. These tailings contain substantial quantities of heavy minerals containing REE, Sc, Y, Zr, Hf, and Ti. The main objective of the proposal is to establish a self-sustaining network of Al value chain stakeholders, including potential users of extracted heavy minerals concentrates and potential users of recycling residues in building sector, within whose scope the zero waste extraction of valuable metals from red mud tailings would be established and optimised. Secondly, the project will evaluate the already existing Best Available Technology for gravitational and magnetic separation (which was originally developed for the extraction of heavy minerals out of different types of ores), and could be used for the extraction of heavy minerals from red mud. The activities will cover a large area of RIS ESSE eligible countries (i.e. Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia, and Greece).
It is expected that the establishment of such a self-sustained network of stakeholders along Al value chain will increase the competitiveness of regional value chains, from the prospecting of red mud tailings and the extraction of valuable raw materials in different targeted markets to environmentally-orientated technologies and the construction sector. Besides achieving increased competitiveness of the RIS region, the project will determine the stocks of REE, Sc, Y, Zr, Hf, and Ti in red mud tailings in the ESEE region, which is expected to significantly strengthen Europe's independence from the import of raw materials by opening up new European secondary mining regions containing critical and other valuable raw materials.