Australian Bauxite’s 87 per cent owned chemical refining subsidiary, Alcore, appears to have made a significant technical breakthrough with its proprietary mineral production process used to produce commercial-grade aluminium fluoride from metal refining waste known as “dross”. The company believes its process can deliver substantial economic and environmental benefits for Australasian aluminium smelters reliant on imports of the material.
The breakthrough comes on the back of the company’s new single-stage process that utilises only dross as feed material for producing aluminium fluoride.
Alcore has been evaluating using dross, a waste by-product that forms on top of molten aluminium in casting furnaces, due to its low acquisition cost and the potential to increase recycling of aluminium waste in smelters.
Currently all commercial aluminium fluoride production comes from aluminium hydroxide, according to management. Australian Bauxite itself has previously been using a two-stage approach combining dross and aluminium hydroxide.
Alcore reports the new single-stage process has delivered numerous samples of aluminium fluoride with chemical compositions in line with industry specifications and containing low-level silicon, sodium and calcium impurities.
The process increases recovery of aluminium from dross whilst reducing production costs, according to the company.
Aluminium fluoride is an essential component in aluminium smelting. Its application for use in lithium-ion batteries is also being evaluated.
Australasian smelters rely entirely on imported aluminium fluoride, according to Alcore. Australian imports from China in 2020 alone have totalled 21,000 tonnes at an average purchase price of US$1,180 per tonne, it says.
The latest developments could bode well for the Sydney-based company as it looks to advance its technology and aluminium fluoride production toward commercialisation.
Alcore is considering a pilot plant to apply the innovative process at a larger scale and to produce samples for smelter testing. Laboratory works to optimise aluminium fluoride production are also on the cards.
The company believes its process will a be a key contributor to improving the environmental performance of aluminium smelters globally.
The company aspires to be the first Australian producer of aluminium fluoride and believes its product will provide security of supply to Australia’s aluminium smelting industry.