Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE’s largest industrial company outside the oil and gas sector, has announced the start of a first-of-its-kind pilot plant to convert bauxite residue into manufactured soil.
“It is an important milestone in our drive to find productive uses for bauxite residue, which has been a challenge since the dawn of our industry,” said Abdulnasser bin Kalban, chief executive of EGA.
“Manufactured soil has great potential as a solution, as it meets an important need in the UAE,” he added, noting the county’s limited naturally-occurring soil, which usually requires significant imports for various projects.
This pilot plant could help contribute to the UAE’s efforts at creating a more circular economy, Mr bin Kalban noted.
“Our goal is to develop and prove multiple solutions, to ensure all bauxite residue produced in the UAE is used in the UAE,” he said.
Bauxite, a rock, is a primary source for aluminium, but has the potential to create environmental challenges resulting from the residue created during the production of various aluminium products.
EGA says it has already developed other potential “novel applications for bauxite residue, including as a raw material for the steel, cement and construction industries”.
The announcement of the pilot plant comes just days after the company began construction of the country’s largest aluminium recycling plant.
It also comes just days before the much-anticipated Cop28 climate conference, which kicks off in Dubai on Thursday.
The bauxite pilot plant is located in Al Taweelah in Abu Dhabi. It will cover 900 square metres when completed in 2024.
The plant’s specialised filtration system was built in Finland, and arrived in the UAE back in June, according to EGA.
EGA is calling the manufactured soil 'Turba' – which is the Arabic word for soil.
The company said that trials have indicated that Turba can significantly enhance plant growth while using less water and fertiliser than other soil alternatives.