PERTH AERIALS 2015

Vivid colours and striking patterns of a Mars like landscape just south of Perth - Western Australia, are in fact alumina residue waste management ponds. Captivating as they are from the air, you can not help but feel an uneasy sense of worry when these almost radioactive looking mud ponds glow from amongst the southern suburbs. Spanning an area over 1,000 hectares these 2 refinery waste dumps sit close to the southern suburbs of Wagerup and Kwinana.

At every stage of aluminum production, a large number of environmental degradation issues are created. Starting from open cast Bauxite mining to the use of caustic soda in the refining process to the fluoride fused salt electrolytic process of aluminium smelting. These ponds contain the insoluble waste produced during the Bayer process, referred to as red mud. As much as half of red mud is iron oxide, from which it gets its rusty color. Disposed as a slurry the by product is dumped into secured large inland artificial ponds, known as a closed cycle disposal system. If red mud with its highly alkaline content is disposed as it is, on land or its leach water overflows from its disposal ponds due to leakage, landslide of the banks, or due to heavy rains, severe damage could be caused to water bodies, grassland and vegetation.

The disposal of red mud remains an environmental concern all around in the alumina- aluminium producing countries. However, the  industry has been making serious attempts to improve its status in this regard.