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RED MUD & BAUXITE – world-wide review and geochemical analysis

Current research has developed the largest geochemical database for red mud and bauxite composition currently available, based on world-wide review. The objective is to characterise the geochemical composition of red mud and bauxite, to point out heterogeneities in composition, and to investigate a link between bauxite and red mud composition.

CATASTROPHE RESPONSE – red mud spill in Ajka/Kolontar 2010

Red mud was spilled through the failed dam of the Ajka alumina plant depository on October 4, 2010, resulting in loss of lives, severe casualties, property damage and contamination of agricultural lands. Immediate scientific efforts at the site included geological and geochemical survey by the Geological Institute of Hungary (MAFI). Geologists were among the first in the field providing reliable site description, sampling and laboratory analyses. This early phase included geochemical sampling supporting airborn hyperspectral survey. In the second phase, a detailed catchment-based geochemical mapping of stream sediments and soils was carried out within one month of dam failure in order to identify contamination versus natural geochemical background and to define geochemical baseline for follow-up monitoring. Lab leaching tests were accomplished to identify the mobility of toxic elements in the waste material. A detailed geological mapping of near-site area was carried out for the temporary depository of spilled red mud. In the closing phase, geologists are active in long-term human health and ecosystem risk assessment, improvement of catastrophe response capacities and research on airborn dust and urban soil geochemical studies. Geologists have been playing a documented role in various national and international expert boards providing scientific basis for decision making.

Impact of the red mud spill. Upper left: the breached dam as the contamination source. Upper right: the Torna Creek and its floodplain as the contamination pathway. Lower left: flooded village downstream as the human receptor. Lower right: flooded agricultural land as ecosystem receptor.

Impact of the red mud spill. Upper left: the breached dam as the contamination source. Upper right: the Torna Creek and its floodplain as the contamination pathway. Lower left: flooded village downstream as the human receptor. Lower right: flooded agricultural land as ecosystem receptor.

FIELD

1. FAST RESPONSE

  • Field sampling: 07 October, 2011
  • Lab analysis: 08 October
  • Airborn survey University-MTA-MÁFI Consortium: 10 October

2. GEOCHEMICAL SURVEY

  • Cathment-based geochemical survey: red mud, stream sediment, floodplain sediment
  •  Dam material
  • Lab analysis: total extraction, leaching tests

3. INTERNATIONAL AND GOVERNMENT CO-OPERATION

  • Environmental Ministry, USGS, BGS, etc.

 

LAB

1. MINERALOGICAL AND GRAIN SIZE COMPOSITION

  • XRD
  • SEM
  • GRAIN SIZE

2. CHEMICAL COMPOSITION

  • Aqua regia extraction (1:3 HNO3 – HCL) : trace elements
  • Microwave bomb extraction (HF, HNO3, HCL): trace elements
  • Lithium-metaborate extraction (LiBO2): major elements

3. LEACHING TESTS (MOBILITY TESTS)

  •  Destilled water (pH=12), amonium-acetate (pH=10), acetic acid (pH=3, 5, 8)

4. RADIOCTIVE RADIATION (with ELTEUniversity)

  • Field and lab dosimetry
  • ICP-MS chemical composition (U, Th, …)
  • Radon lab measurements

 

Publication: G. Jordan, U. Fügedi, A. Bartha, J. Vatai, G. Tóth, J. Murati, I. Szentpéteri, P. Konya, I. Gaburi, D. Tolmács and T. Müller. 2011. The red mud catastrophe in Kolontár, Hungary: applying geology. Journal of European Geologist, 32. http://www.eurogeologists.eu.