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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: September 2nd 2002

:: Virotec to market patented BaseconTM technology to the Alumina industry  

Viotec International Ltd has announced that it has the worldwide marketing and distribution rights to a newly invented process, to be known as Basecon™ technology, which is registered and patent applied for worldwide, and has been successfully demonstrated at alumina refineries in North American and Europe.

In essence, Basecon™ technology provides the alumina industry with an economic incentive to neutralise bauxite residue (red mud) in such a way that it is no longer caustic thus eliminating the industry’s long term waste liability. Executive Chairman Brian Sheeran states, “It is impossible to imagine a world without aluminium, yet the industry faces constant challenges. Basecon™ technology gives the alumina industry a ‘walkaway’ solution to hundreds of millions of tons of caustic bauxite residue currently stored in containment ponds, and tens of millions of tons of caustic bauxite residue produced annually. The Directors believe Basecon™ technology is a significant breakthrough that will benefit the alumina industry throughout the world."

Virotec will be seeking to license Basecon™ technology to alumina companies. When applied to the Bayer process (which is used by the alumina industry worldwide) Basecon™ technology eliminates the need to store a caustic bauxite residue. Furthermore, the Basecon™ technology can be applied to caustic residue that is currently stored in containment ponds, enabling immediate, effective and complete environmental remediation. Virotec Global Solutions Pty Ltd (Virotec’s operations company) will be seeking to enter into contracts to undertake this remediation.

Basecon™ technology is also economically accessible. In order to implement current seawater neutralisation, large amounts of seawater are required (typically between 12 and 18 times the volume of red mud to be neutralised) if the discharge water is to meet normal environmental standards and large ponds are required to allow the solids to settle before the calcium and magnesium depleted seawater used in the neutralisation process can be returned to the sea. These limitations, which Basecon™ technology overcomes, add substantial economic and environmental barriers to adopting seawater neutralisation.
Virotec’s motivation for pursuing the Basecon™ technology was to develop cheaper and faster methods for producing Bauxsol™ raw material to enable increased manufacture of Virotec’s environmental reagents. Bauxsol™ raw material is bauxite refinery residue that has been neutralised and prepared to Virotec’s exact specifications, so that it has characteristics that make it a suitable ingredient for environmental reagents, and safe to store and transport.

Basecon™ technology economically converts basicity (mainly sodium hydroxide) and soluble alkalinity (mainly sodium carbonate) into alkalinity that is retained as low solubility hydroxide, carbonate or hydroxycarbonate minerals. After minor additional treatment, the spent neutralising fluid can be safely discharged to the sea or retained in an evaporating basin for salt recovery.

Because of the variability in ores, each alumina plant is almost tailored to suit a particular bauxite. Virotec’s Basecon™ technology provides a geochemical computer model that allows rapid calculation of neutralisation requirements for ANY initial red mud alkalinity, ANY solids load in the residue and the composition of a wide range of cost effective, readily available neutralising agents, (including, but not limited to, seawater, saline or hard groundwater brines, salt lake bines, industrial waste brines). The computer model can be applied to any alumina refinery in the world, providing it with the most cost-effective method to neutralise refinery residue and to make available to Virotec reusable raw material
The Directors believe that the implications for the alumina industry are significant. For decades, the alumina industry has been investigating options for treating, disposing, and using bauxite residue, a by-product of the Bayer process to extract aluminium oxide from bauxite ore. The sheer volumes of residue waste generated, together with the cost of treatment and handling, have been the primary issues affecting its use in beneficial applications. The worldwide alumina industry produces over 70 million dry metric tons of bauxite residue annually and Australia is the largest alumina refiner in the world, producing around 30% of the total alumina.



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Angus Craig
Company Secretary
Virotec International Ltd
+61 755 308 014

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