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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Magnesium: Latest News: December 10th 2002


:: Out of the Ashes: Mining Magnesium from Power Station Waste  

Millions of tonnes of waste from coal-fired power stations could be processed into a major supply of magnesium by the Latrobe Magnesium Project, based in the La Trobe Valley, near Melbourne, Australia. Steve Hill talks to CEO Chris Sylvester about the environmental and cost benefits of the proposed scheme.

In nineteenth century London, as described by Charles Dickens in 'Our Mutual Friend', waste was collected from the streets by an army of private contractors, and stacked into enormous 'dust piles', in which people searched for accidentally discarded money jewellery and valuable materials. Occasionally, the piles yielded rich pickings, but more often than not, they were simply sold on as raw materials for road building and other processes. Skip forward a century and a half, and Australian minerals scientists are looking to update Dickens with an ambitious project that could yield both huge quantities of valuable magnesium plus other useful raw materials from 'piles' of waste fly ash, produced by coal-fired power stations.

The Latrobe Magnesium Project could generate as much as 100,000 tonnes per annum of the metal and its alloys, if all goes according to plan over the next six years. When you consider that the current worldwide supply of magnesium is approximately 400,000 tonnes per annum, the potential impact of the project becomes obvious. But as well as providing a massive injection of material into a rapidly growing market, the Latrobe project will produce magnesium more cheaply and in a much more eco-efficient way than conventional processing plants, claims the team behind the scheme. For example, by 're-mining' waste fly ash material, the process will not produce any of the direct carbon dioxide emissions that are usually associated with extracting magnesium from its ore. There are a number of other environmental benefits promised by the project too. As CEO Chris Sylvester puts it, "This has been a green project from the outset.'



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Full Story:
Materials World, December 2002

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