A review of the characterization and revegetation of bauxite residues (Red mud)
Bauxite residue (Red mud) is produced in alumina plants by the Bayer process in which Al-containing minerals are dissolved in hot NaOH. The global residue inventory reached an estimated 3.5 billion tons in 2014, increasing by approximately 120 million tons per annum. The appropriate management of bauxite residue is becoming a global environmental concern following increased awareness of the need for environmental protection. Establishment of a vegetation cover is the most promising way forward for the management of bauxite residue, although its physical and chemical properties can limit plant growth due to high alkalinity and salinity, low hydraulic conductivity, trace element toxicity (Al and Fe), and deficiencies in organic matter and nutrition concentrations. This paper discusses the various revegetation and rehabilitation strategies. Studies of the rehabilitation of bauxite residues have mainly focused on two approaches, amelioration of the surface layer and screening of tolerant plants and soil microorganisms. Amendment with gypsum can reduce the high alkalinity and salinity, promote soil aggregation, and increase the hydraulic conductivity of bauxite residues. Organic matter can provide a source of plant nutrients, form stable complexes with metal cations, promote hydraulic conductivity, stabilize soil structure, and provide an energy source for soil organisms. Tolerant plants and microorganisms such as halophytes and alkaliphilic microbes show the greatest potential to ameliorate bauxite residues. However, during restoration or as a result of natural vegetation establishment, soil formation becomes a critical issue and an improved understanding of the various pedogenic processes are required, and future direction should focus on this area.
KeywordsAlkalinity Bauxite residues Revegetation Salinity Soil formation
Financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41371475) and Environmental protection’s special scientific research for Chinese public welfare industry (No. 201509048) is gratefully acknowledged.
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