Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 1120–1132 | Cite as

A review of the characterization and revegetation of bauxite residues (Red mud)

  • Shengguo Xue
  • Feng Zhu
  • Xiangfeng Kong
  • Chuan Wu
  • Ling Huang
  • Nan Huang
  • William Hartley
Selected Papers from the 2nd Contaminated Land, Ecological Assessment and Remediation (CLEAR 2014) Conference: Environmental Pollution and Remediation


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.


Alkalinity 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.


  1. Akinci A, Artir R (2008) Characterization of trace elements and radionuclides and their risk assessment in red mud. Mater Charact 59:417–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alshaal T, Domokos-Szabolcsy É, Márton L, Czakó M, Kátai J, Balogh P, Elhawat N, El-Ramady H, Fári M (2013) Phytoremediation of bauxite-derived red mud by giant reed. Environ Chem Lett 11:295–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alvarez J, Ordonez S, Rosal R, Sastre H, Diez FV (1999) A new method for enhancing the performance of red mud as a hydrogenation catalyst. Appl Catal A Gen 180:399–409CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Atasoy A (2005) An investigation on characterization and thermal analysis of the Aughinish red mud. J Therm Anal Calorim 81:357–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banerjee SK (2003) Conversion of conventional wet disposal of red mud into Thickened Tailing Disposal (TTD) at Nalco Alumina Refinery, Damanjodi. Light Metals 125–132Google Scholar
  6. Banning NC, Phillips IR, Jones DL, Murphy DV (2011) Development of microbial diversity and functional potential in bauxite residue sand under rehabilitation. Restor Ecol 19:78–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bell LC, Meecham JR (1978) Reclamation of alumina refinery wastes at Gladstone, Australia. Reclamation Review 1:129–137Google Scholar
  8. Buchanan SJ et al (2010) Influence of texture in bauxite residues on void ratio, water holding characteristics, and penetration resistance. Geoderma 158(3–4):421–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bucher MA et al. (1985) The effects of gypsum and sewage sludge on plant growth and nutrition on alkaline, saline, fine-textured bauxite residue. Diss. Duke UniversityGoogle Scholar
  10. Chauhan S, Ganguly A (2011) Standardizing rehabilitation protocol using vegetation cover for bauxite waste (red mud) in eastern India. Ecol Eng 37:504–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooling DJ (2007) Improving the sustainability of residue management practices—Alcoa World Alumina Australia. Paste and Thickened Tailings: A Guide, 3–16Google Scholar
  12. Courtney R, Kirwan L (2012) Gypsum amendment of alkaline bauxite residue—plant available aluminium and implications for grassland restoration. Ecol Eng 42:279–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Courtney RG, Timpson JP (2004) Nutrient status of vegetation grown in alkaline bauxite processing residue amended with gypsum and thermally dried sewage sludge—a two year field study. Plant Soil 266:187–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Courtney R, Timpson J (2005) Reclamation of fine fraction bauxite processing residue (red mud) amended with coarse fraction residue and gypsum. Water Air Soil Pollut 164(1–4):91–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Courtney R, Mullen G, Harrington T (2009a) An evaluation of revegetation success on bauxite residue. Restor Ecol 17:350–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Courtney RG, Jordan SN, Harrington T (2009b) Physico-chemical changes in bauxite residue following application of spent mushroom compost and gypsum. Land Degrad Dev 20:572–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Courtney R, Harrington T, Byrne KA (2013) Indicators of soil formation in restored bauxite residues. Ecol Eng 58:63–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eastham J, Morald T, Aylmore P (2006) Effective nutrient sources for plant growth on bauxite residue. Water Air Soil Pollut 176(1–4):5–19Google Scholar
  19. Fois E, Lallai A, Mura G (2007) Sulfur dioxide absorption in a bubbling reactor with suspensions of Bayer red mud. Ind Eng Chem Res 46:6770–6776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frouz J, Prach K, Pi LV, Háněl L, Stary J, Tajovsky K, Materna J, Balík V, Kal Ík JÍ, Ehounková K (2008) Interactions between soil development, vegetation and soil fauna during spontaneous succession in post mining sites. Eur J Soil Biol 44:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fuller RD, Richardson CJ (1986) Aluminate toxicity as a factor controlling plant growth in bauxite residue. Environ Toxicol Chem 5:905–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fuller RD, Nelson EDP, Richardson CJ (1982) Reclamation of red mud (bauxite residues) using alkaline-tolerant grasses with organic amendments. J Environ Manag 11:533–539Google Scholar
  23. Garau G, Castaldi P, Santona L, Deiana P, Melis P (2007) Influence of red mud, zeolite and lime on heavy metal immobilization, culturable heterotrophic microbial populations and enzyme activities in a contaminated soil. Geoderma 142:47–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gräfe M, Klauber C (2011) Bauxite residue issues: IV. Old obstacles and new pathways for in situ residue bioremediation. Hydrometallurgy 108:46–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hamada T (1986) Environmental management of bauxite residue—a review. The Jamaica Bauxite Institute, The University of the West Indies, Kingston, pp 109–117Google Scholar
  26. Hamdy MK, Williams FS (2001) Bacterial amelioration of bauxite residue waste of industrial alumina plants. J Ind Microbiol Biot 27:228–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hanahan C, McConchie D, Pohl H, Creelman R, Clark M, Stocksiek C (2004) Chemistry of seawater neutralization of bauxite refinery residues (red mud). Environ Eng Sci 21:125–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harris MA (2009) Structural improvement of age-hardened gypsum-treated bauxite red mud waste using readily decomposable phyto-organics. Environ Geol 56(8):1517–1522Google Scholar
  29. Hausberg J, Happel U, Meyer FM, Mistry M, Rohrlich M, Koch H, Martens PN, Schlimbach J, Rombach G, Kruger J (2000) Global red mud reduction potential through optimised technologies and ore selection. Miner Resour Eng 9:407–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hind AR, Bhargava SK, Grocott SC (1999) The surface chemistry of Bayer process solids: a review. Colloids Surf A Physicochem Eng Asp 146:359–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MII (Mineral Information Institute) (2009) Aluminum & bauxite. Minerals/photoal.html.
  32. Jiang J, Xu RK, Zhao AZ (2011) Surface chemical properties and pedogenesis of tropical soils derived from basalts with different ages in Hainan, China. Catena 87:334–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jones BEH, Haynes RJ (2011) Bauxite processing residue: a critical review of its formation, properties, storage, and revegetation. Crit Rev Environ Sci Tecnol 41:271–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones BEH, Haynes RJ, Phillips IR (2010) Effect of amendment of bauxite processing sand with organic materials on its chemical, physical and microbial properties. J Environ Manag 91(11):2281–2288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jones BEH, Haynes RJ, Phillips IR (2011) Influence of organic waste and residue mud additions on chemical, physical and microbial properties of bauxite residue sand. Environ Sci Pollut Res 18:199–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kahane R, Nguyen T, Schwarz MP (2002) CFD modelling of thickeners at Worsley Alumina Pty Ltd. Appl Math Model 26:281–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Khaitan S, Dzombak DA, Lowry GV (2009) Mechanisms of neutralization of bauxite residue by carbon dioxide. J Environ Eng 135:433–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kirkpatrick DB (1996) Red mud product development. Light metals. TMS, Anaheim, pp 75–80Google Scholar
  39. Kirwan LJ, Hartshorn A, McMonagle JB, Fleming L, Funnell D (2013) Chemistry of bauxite residue neutralisation and aspects to implementation. Int J Miner Process 119:40–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Klauber C, Gräfe M, Power G (2011) Bauxite residue issues: II. Options for residue utilization. Hydrometallurgy 108:11–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kopittke PM, Menzies NW (2005) Effect of pH on Na induced Ca deficiency. Plant Soil 269:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Krishna P, Reddy MS, Patnaik SK (2005) Aspergillus tubingensis reduces the pH of the bauxite residue (Red mud) amended soils. Water Air Soil Pollut 167:201–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kumar S, Kumar R, Bandopadhyay A (2006) Innovative methodologies for the utilisation of wastes from metallurgical and allied industries. Resour Conserv Recycl 48:301–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lee S, Lee J, Choi YJ, Kim J (2009) In situ stabilization of cadmium-, lead-, and zinc-contaminated soil using various amendments. Chemosphere 77:1069–1075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Li Y, Liu C, Luan Z, Peng X, Zhu C, Chen Z, Zhang Z, Fan J, Jia Z (2006) Phosphate removal from aqueous solutions using raw and activated red mud and fly ash. J Hazard Mater 137:374–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Liu W, Yang J, Xiao B (2009) Review on treatment and utilization of bauxite residues in China. Int J Miner Process 93:220–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. López E, Soto B, Arias M, Nú Ez A, Rubinos D, Barral MT (1998) Adsorbent properties of red mud and its use for wastewater treatment. Water Res 32:1314–1322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Meecham JR, Bell LC (1977) Revegetation of alumina refinery wastes. 1. Properties and amelioration of materials. Aust J Exp Agric 17:679–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mendez MO, Maier RM (2007) Phytostabilization of mine tailings in arid and semiarid environments—an emerging remediation technology. Environ Health Perspect 116:278–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mendez MO, Maier RM (2008) Phytoremediation of mine tailings in temperate and arid environments. Rev Environ Sci Bio Technol 7:47–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Meyer FM (2004) Availability of bauxite reserves. Nat Resour Res 13:161–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mohan RK, Herbich JB, Hossner LR, Williams FS (1997) Reclamation of solid waste landfills by capping with dredged material. J Hazard Mater 53:141–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Newson T, Dyer T, Adam C, Sharp S (2006) Effect of structure on the geotechnical properties of bauxite residue. J Geotech Geoenviron 132:143–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nguyen QD, Boger DV (1998) Application of rheology to solving tailings disposal problems. Int J Miner Process 54:217–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nikraz HR, Bodley AJ, Cooling DJ, Kong PYL, Soomro M (2007) Comparison of physical properties between treated and untreated bauxite residue mud. J Mater Civ Eng 19:2–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ochsenkuhn-Petropoulou MT, Hatzilyberis KS, Mendrinos LN, Salmas CE (2002) Pilot-plant investigation of the leaching process for the recovery of scandium from red mud. Ind Eng Chem Res 41:5794–5801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Paramguru RK, Rath PC, Misra VN (2005) Trends in red mud utilization—a review. Miner Process Extr Metall Rev 26:1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Power G, Gräfe M, Klauber C (2011) Bauxite residue issues: I. Current management, disposal and storage practices. Hydrometallurgy 108:33–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pradhan J, Das SN, Thakur RS (1999) Adsorption of hexavalent chromium from aqueous solution by using activated red mud. J Colloid Interface Sci 217(1):137–141Google Scholar
  60. Santini TC, Fey MV (2013) Spontaneous vegetation encroachment upon bauxite residue (Red Mud) as an indicator and facilitator of in situ remediation processes. Environ Sci Technol 47:12089–12096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schellmann W (1994) Geochemical differentiation in laterite and bauxite formation. Catena 21:131–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schmalenberger A, O’Sullivan O, Gahan J, Cotter PD, Courtney R (2013) Bacterial communities established in bauxite residues with different restoration histories. Environ Sci Technol 47:7110–7119Google Scholar
  63. Sglavo VM, Campostrini R, Maurina S, Carturan G, Monagheddu M, Budroni G, Cocco G (2000) Bauxite ‘red mud’ in the ceramic industry. Part 1: thermal behaviour. J Eur Ceram Soc 20:235–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Singh M, Upadhayay SN, Prasad PM (1997) Preparation of iron of iron rich cements using mud. Cem Concr Res 27:1037–1046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sushil S, Batra VS (2012) Modification of red mud by acid treatment and its application for CO removal. J Hazard Mater 203–204:264–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thornber MR, Binet D (1999) Caustic soda adsorption on Bayer residues. In: Alumina W (ed) 5th International Alumina Quality Workshop. AQW lnc., Bunbury, pp 498–507Google Scholar
  67. Tsuji GY (1993) Alleviating soil fertility constraints to increased crop production in West Africa: Edited by A. Uzo Mokwunye. Developments in plant and soil sciences, Volume 47, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 244: 354–355Google Scholar
  68. USGS (United States Geological Survey) (2014) Mineral commodity summaries: bauxite and alumina. United States Government Printing Office, Washington.
  69. Wang S, Ang HM, Tadé MO (2008) Novel applications of red mud as coagulant, adsorbent and catalyst for environmentally benign processes. Chemosphere 72:1621–1635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Wehr JB, Fulton I, Menzies NW (2006) Revegetation strategies for bauxite refinery residue: a case study of Alcan Gove in Northern Territory, Australia. Environ Manag 37:297–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Williams FS, Hamdy DMK (1982) Induction of biological activity in bauxite residue. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 957–964Google Scholar
  72. Wong JWC, Ho GE (1993) Use of waste gypsum in the revegetation on Red Mud deposits: a greenhouse study. Waste Manag Res 11:249–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wong JWC, Ho GE (1994a) Sewage sludge as organic ameliorant for revegetation of fine bauxite refining residue. Resour Conserv Recycl 11:297–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wong JWC, Ho GE (1994b) Effectiveness of acidic industrial wastes for reclaiming fine bauxite refining residue (red mud). Soil Sci 158:115–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Woodard HJ, Hossner L, Bush J (2008) Ameliorating caustic properties of aluminum extraction residue to establish a vegetative cover. J Environ Sci Health A 43:1157–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wu Y, Li Y, Zheng C, Zhang Y, Sun Z (2013) Organic amendment application influence soil organism abundance in saline alkali soil. Eur J Soil Biol 54:32–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Xenidis A, Harokopou AD, Mylona E, Brofas G (2005) Modifying alumina red mud to support a revegetation cover. JOM 57:42–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Yal NN, Sevin V (2000) Utilization of bauxite waste in ceramic glazes. Ceram Int 26:485–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Yang HZ et al (1989) Bauxite deposits in China. Chin J Geochem 8:293–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Yang CW, Zhang ML, Liu J, Shi DC, Wang DL (2009) Effects of buffer capacity on growth, photosynthesis, and solute accumulation of a glycophyte (wheat) and a halophyte (Chloris virgata). Photosynthetica 47:55–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Yu Z, Shi Z, Chen Y, Niu Y, Wang Y, Wan P (2012) Red-mud treatment using oxalic acid by UV irradiation assistance. T Nonferr Metal Soc 22:456–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Zhang J, Mu C (2009) Effects of saline and alkaline stresses on the germination, growth, photosynthesis, ionic balance and anti-oxidant system in an alkali-tolerant leguminous forage Lathyrus quinquenervius. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 55:685–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Zhang S, Liu C, Luan Z, Peng X, Ren H, Wang J (2008) Arsenate removal from aqueous solutions using modified red mud. J Hazard Mater 152:486–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zhu C, Luan Z, Wang Y, Shan X (2007) Removal of cadmium from aqueous solutions by adsorption on granular red mud (GRM). Sep Purif Technol 57:161–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Metallurgy and EnvironmentCentral South UniversityChangshaPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Crop and Environment Sciences DepartmentHarper Adams UniversityNewportUK

Personalised recommendations