Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) and Belgium-based Vito will "intensify" their research partnership agreement to examine how bauxite residue can be used in construction to help the UAE reduce building material imports.
Jointly, the companies will explore how the aluminium smelting by-product can help build road foundations, as well as replace clay-based aggregates used for light-weight concrete.
If the product is found to be a viable replacement for common construction raw materials, then it will go on to “substantially reduce” the UAE’s reliance on imported products, according to a report by state news agency, Wam. For instance, due to the unsuitability of naturally occurring sand in the country, the UAE imports most of the sand volumes it requires for road construction projects.
Globally, it is estimated that 150 million tonnes of bauxite residue is wasted, and less than 2% of global stockpiles are put to productive use, EGA said in a statement on its website in January 2018. The company is currently developing the UAE's first alumina refinery near its Al Taweelah smelter in Abu Dhabi.
EGA and Vito started exploring the potential uses of bauxite residue in 2017, with the latter company working with Belgium's University of Leuven on the research project. Both companies now want to step up their partnership, according to EGA’s executive vice president of midstream, Dr Ali Alzarouni.
He added: “Finding economically viable uses for bauxite residue is a global challenge. We are mindful of the scale of the task, but success here could be a breakthrough for our entire industry.”