Environmental initiatives, high productivity, and a commitment to safety have seen Alcoa’s Kwinana Refinery recognised as the minerals processing plant of the year.
Kwinana Refinery increased production by 15% in 2005 and 2006.
The refinery also improved safety performance, achieving zero Lost Time Injuries in both 2005 and 2006.
The company says the key to the refinery’s performance was rapid improvement and an effective employee engagement program.
The program developed management systems throughout the refinery, and promoted a high level of employee involvement in problem solving and management of work areas.
Alcoa’s Kwinana operations have a workforce of around 1500 employees and contractors.
Alcoa has achieved a greenhouse breakthrough at Kwinana, with an innovative waste treatment process that is locking up 70,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Known as residue carbon capture, the process adds CO2 to the mix of minerals left behind when alumina is extracted from bauxite.
Until now, bauxite residue has required long-term storage because, although it is thoroughly washed, it retains some alkaline liquor from the refining process.
A Kwinana-based Alcoa research team found that mixing CO2 into the residue reduces its pH level to the levels found naturally in some alkaline soils. This opened the path for its re-use as road base and soil amendment.
Importantly, the team also found the CO2 remains locked up in the carbonated residue, reducing greenhouse emissions.
Alcoa’s first residue carbon capture plant is operating at Kwinana Refinery.
A pipeline from a nearby ammonia plant delivers CO2 which would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.
The carbon capture plant is able to carbonate all Kwinana Refinery residue, locking up about 70,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
That is the equivalent of taking over 17,500 cars off the road.
Alcoa is planning on spreading the technology to its operations around the globe.
In Australian refineries alone, this could lock up 300,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The residue carbon capture process was developed by Alcoa’s Technology Delivery Group at Alcoa’s Kwinana based global research and development centre for alumina refining.
Kwinana Refinery was one of the first industrial plants in WA to give community and government stakeholders direct input into its environmental management processes and operational plans.
Kwinana Refinery launched its first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) in 2006, along with Alcoa’s other alumina refineries and WA mines.
The Kwinana Refinery’s EIP working group included 18 representatives from local communities, councils and government departments.
The partnership helped develop the plan, and continued to meet every two months to review the refinery’s progress in meeting the targets set out in the plan.
They were the first EIPs to be developed in WA, exceeding WA Government licensing requirements, setting a new benchmark for community engagement in the mining and resources industry.
Kwinana Refinery was recognised for excellence in community partnerships in 2006 when its community development partnership with the City of Cockburn won a Federal Government award.
Since 2003, Kwinana Refinery has provided funding for community-driven projects, and the development of community action plans involving more than 44 community groups in the City of Cockburn.
Alcoa has jointly funded the program with Cockburn City Council.
This partnership, known as the Cockburn Community Development Strategy, was named as the winner of the Community Business Partnership category in the national 2006 Local Government Awards.
Kwinana’s other community partnerships include The Kwinana Early Years Services (KEYS) protective behaviours program, and an Indigenous cultural tour and education program.
The Kwinana Early Years Services (KEYS) protective behaviours program teaches children how to manage bullying, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual exploitation. It also supports teachers, and helps them assist children in these situations.
Alcoa’s support allows a part-time educator to run workshops at seven Kwinana primary schools, reaching over 520 children and teachers in 2006.
The company’s Indigenous cultural tour and education program is held partly on Alcoa land in the Spectacles Wetlands.
The tour program was developed through a partnership between the Medina Aboriginal Cultural Community, WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Committee, Town of Kwinana, Kwinana Refinery, Alcoa Foundation, Challenger TAFE, and the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Alcoa’s Kwinana Refinery was named Alcoa’s Highest Performing Location in Western Australia in January 2007, the premier award in Alcoa’s inaugural Alcoa WA Operations Awards for Excellence.
The awards recognised Kwinana as having achieved the best overall performance of Alcoa’s mining and refining operations in WA, covering production, safety, environmental management, costs and quality.
The Bemax Ginkgo mine has been highly commended for a water saving initiative that stops water being drawn from the Darling River.
In 2002, Ginkgo’s remote location led the company to establish of the Pooncarrie Project Feasibility Study.
The study considered a number of environmental issues in establishing a world-class mineral sands mining operation in the Murray Basin’s northern sector.
The Ginkgo remote mine site, in an arid area with zero infrastructure, required a considerable volume of water for mineral processing.
Mine staff considered using an extensive hyper-saline aquifer that was unused due to the salt content of the water.
The mine relocated salt washing and wet feed magnetic separation stages to mine site, and began using saline water for mine site gravity separation. This avoided the need to draw water from the Darling River, and compete with other water users.
Water at the Ginkgo Mine is supplied through a reverse osmosis desalination plant.
The mine stockpiles less valuable product from the magnetic separation stage at the mine, and only transports the more valuable product stream to Broken Hill for final mineral separation.
The mine now operates on a closed loop salt system where salt is contained in the existing aquifer.
The project resulted in significant fuel savings, and eliminated potential environmental issues in the handling and transport of this waste stream.
The mine contains 5.8 Mt of heavy mineral, with a suite of products including the highly priced, and highly sought after, zircon product.