Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. (VAL) has commissioned a red mud powder producing unit at Lanjigarh refinery in Odisha, describing it as first of its kind in alumina industry tackling major environmental hazards.

“The unique project of producing red mud powder has been commissioned in a fully mechanised and automatic plant. The system has been developed in-house after continuous research for more than three years,” a senior company official said in a statement on Tuesday.

Giving details of the project, Mukesh Kumar, president and COO of VAL said the project which was commissioned last week is the first of its kind in the world and has been set up with a capital expenditure of around Rs. 50 crore.

This will have advantages like savings in caustic consumption by 10-15 kg per tonne of alumina, minimising land requirement by 50 to 60 per cent, and doing away with wet red mud storage thereby eliminating environmental hazards, he said.

The powdery red mud can easily be utilised in cement industry as well as in other Industries, Mr. Kumar said.

Red mud is a waste from alumina industry and its disposal and utilisation has always been a matter of concern for environmentalists as well as alumina industry.

Although, the alumina technology is more than 100 years old but no solution could be evolved by the industry to avoid storage of red mud slurry, sources said.

As the slurry is alkaline in nature and its generation is nearly one and a half times of alumina, world over millions of tonnes of red mud is lying in various red mud ponds except in some countries where it is discharged into the sea.

In any alumina refinery, a major portion of land is used for handling this waste. Although, red mud is rich in iron and titanium, no use could be made till now mainly due to presence of caustic soda.

Looking into the serious nature of hazard such red mud ponds may have, MoEF has formed a special project only few months back as National Mission for Red Mud to sponsor and promote research in red mud utilisation, sources said.