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Instrumented column testing of salt uptake from compacted red mud into a cover


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Author C Zhang, D J Williams, X Lei, Y Zhu and M O’Neill


A cover of inert material overlain by topsoil is required over compacted, seawater-neutralised red mud, a waste product from the refining of bauxite to produce alumina. The cover is to be revegetated, and it is necessary to demonstrate that the potential evapotranspirative-driven uptake of salts from the seawater-neutralised red mud will not impact the revegetation. An instrumented column was designed and constructed to test the evaporation-driven uptake of salts from compacted red mud into an overlying cover material with a thickness limited to 600 mm. The PVC column is 1.2 m high, with a 200 mm internal diameter. The column is instrumented with up to ten of each of moisture, suction, salinity and temperature sensors, together with a data logger, designed and manufactured at The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia. The sensors were installed through the wall of the column at various depth intervals, with each set of sensors located at quarter points around the circumference of the column. Two pressure transducers were installed in the column to monitor the change of water level due to rainfall and evaporation. The column was filled with compacted red mud to a depth of 600 mm overlain by 600 mm of cover material, both sourced from the Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) site in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia. The column is installed on a building roof at UQ, alongside a weather station, and will be subjected to the prevailing weather conditions for up to 1 year in the first instance, during which time the weather conditions and sensor responses will be continuously monitored. This paper reports on the instrumented column set-up and the early results obtained from the test.


Zhang, C, Williams, D J, Lei, X, Zhu, Y and O’Neill, M, 2018. Instrumented column testing of salt uptake from compacted red mud into a cover, in Proceedings Mine Waste and Tailings Stewardship Conference 2018, pp 220–226 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).