Orbite signs memorandum of understanding with Asian giant Nalco and announces positive results from Its Red Mud remediation process
MONTREAL, QUEBEC–(Marketwire – June 27, 2012) – Orbite Aluminae Inc. (“Orbite” or the “Company”) (TSX:ORT) announced today having entered into a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with National Aluminium Company Limited (“Nalco”) Asia’s largest integrated aluminium complex, pursuant to which Orbite’s technology will be evaluated on Nalco’s ores, namely Gibbsite, Boehmite and also on Nalco’s red mud residue left after alumina has been extracted from bauxite using the Bayer process. The Company is also proud to announce the successful test results of its patented process in the remediation of red mud and the associated tailings ponds; red mud represents a corrosive, hazardous and long-lasting contaminant and is a by-product of the Bayer process traditionally used to produce alumina from bauxite. The tests demonstrated that Orbite’s process is able to isolate the principal components most commonly found in red mud and remediate them as high-value-added commercial products (Al, Fe, Ti, MgO, REO, RMO, etc.).
These evaluations coupled with exchange of technical information between the parties may conceivably pave the way to a potential participation of Nalco in Orbite’s projected smelter grade alumina production plant in Quebec and to a licensing opportunity of Orbite’s technology to economically process Nalco’s aluminous ores and to remediate the red muds at its existing operations.
“This agreement is the first step in what we hope will be a mutually beneficial relationship between Orbite and Nalco,” declared the President and CEO of Orbite, Richard Boudreault. “The potential synergies between the two companies are considerable.”
Processing and economic remediation of red mud residue
Red mud is the principal waste produced by the traditional Bayer alumina and aluminum manufacturing process. According to the International Committee for the Study of Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium (ICSOBA) “Alumina refineries world over presently generate more than 100 million tons of red mud per annum, which is likely to increase with the setting up of new production facilities and decreasing ore quality. Less than 5% of red mud is being utilized in the world with the remainder disposed in ponds.” Red mud is toxic and highly caustic, a serious health hazard that threatens to pollute water and soil. Each tonne of alumina produced using the Bayer process generates approximately two tonnes of red mud waste. Recent studies estimate and the global inventory or red mud is estimated to be around 3,000 million tonnes at the end of 2010 [Klauber, C., Grafe, M., and Power, G, 2009] – and growing at approximately 120 million tonnes per annum. Red mud has been named the most serious sustainable environmental problem associated with the aluminum industry and recently led to the tragic loss of human life and environmental damage in Hungary, with other spills also occurring in India, China, Canada and Brazil. The environmental and social costs associated with bauxite mines and the Bayer process are spurring opposition to the development of new alumina production opportunities in a number of key countries.
Tested on various sources of red mud, Orbite’s patented process enables red mud residue to be converted into raw material and allows for the extraction of its main components while neutralizing, purifying and extracting some of its key elements (Fe, Al, Ti, MgO, Na, Ca, REE, etc.). Orbite’s process converts red mud into a dry, inert and environmentally neutral product as residue (leachate) and can reduce residual volumes by more than 90% compared to the product’s initial state. The Orbite technology may be offered via a licensing agreement or delivered as a ready to use product to customers in Canada and abroad for the extraction of the alumina, titanium oxides, hematites, magnesium oxides, rare earth oxides, and rare metal oxides contained in this environmentally harmful waste.
“This is a world first, as the Orbite technology is essentially ready to be commercialized,” stated Mr. Boudreault. “Our process is, to our knowledge, the only confirmed, commercially viable technology to remediate Bayer process residues, thereby extending the lifespan of Bayer units often limited by red mud storage permits governing red mud tailings ponds” stated Richard Boudreault, President and CEO of Orbite. “As a result, our technology helps ensure sustainable development by offering an ecological and economical alternative in managing these environmentally harmful residues, and by extension, the associated red mud spills. In addition, our agreement with Nalco is expected to follow the steps of Rusal, as both companies are seeking to reduce their operating costs using local raw materials.”
The Company’s team of engineers undertook testing to validate the efficiency of its SGA process using approximately 50kg of red mud as a raw material, on a pilot scale. The results generated several samples which were then analyzed according to industry best practices by two independent and accredited laboratories: AGAT Laboratories, Mississauga, Ontario, and Evans Analytical Group, Syracuse, New York.
The red mud residues evaluated and tested were representative of the existing distribution characteristics in the alumina industry. The principal components of the red mud residues measured and tested were as follows: Al2O3 – 18-35%, Fe2O3 – 25-45%, as well as non-negligible quantities of TiO2 at 10-20% and SiO2 at 5-10%. Depending on the origin of the red mud, humidity percentages up to 50% can be measured on highly basic products whose density measurements were above 3000 kg/m3.
Based on the samples produced, the Company established a process parameter profile and the conceptual basis for a red mud remediation unit as well as the expected operating expenditures, capital expenditures and return on investment for any potential partners holding licenses for their own purposes. The Orbite technology is also protected via the filing of a provisional patent application in the United States for the processing and remediation of red mud (see press release dated May 9, 2012).
Orbite’s SGA process, which includes semi-continuous leaching and a fully integrated hydrochloric acid regeneration system, produces a solid residue that is slightly grey, dry and non-leachable that has very low density and a neutral pH following the treatment steps devised by Orbite’s engineers. The product obtained is easy to handle and environmentally neutral. It is composed primarily of two main non-leachable oxides: SiO2 and TiO2. Orbite’s SGA process is also suited for the chemical conditions associated with red mud as an input and allows for the recovery of the alumina contained in red mud in addition to the recovery of ultra-pure hematite, magnesium oxides and certain rare metals, when present. The Orbite process can also convert alkaline metals in the form of a chloride into hydrochloric acid during the regeneration process of this acid.
The yields obtained from the remediation of the red mud families evaluated and the individual recovery rates of the main oxides are as follows:
|Initial red mud residues||18-35||25-45||0.2-2.8||3.1-5.1||1.7-6.5|
|Average extraction rate (%)||95.85||94.02||83.33||98.74||96.51|
|Overall recovery rate following remediation with the Orbite process (%)||92.42||91.19||80.54||97.76||93.28|
The dry residual material, which is mainly composed of silica and titanium oxide, can be separated into its two principal components when so desired in order to recover TiO2. The Orbite process can be used for this type of separation and produces titanium oxide with a purity exceeding 95%.
Overall, based on these convincing findings and on the overall approach to the smelter grade alumina (SGA) process, Orbite’s team has adapted and created a conceptual basis for a large-scale industrial process involving the continuous remediation of red mud that can serve to individually and economically recover its constituants. The principle implemented is essentially the same as for the standard Orbite process to refine alumina from clay.
“Our greatest professional satisfaction at Orbite is derived from this kind of technological achievement,” stated Denis Primeau, Eng., MBA, Chief Engineer at Orbite.
The technical content of this press release has been reviewed and approved by Denis Primeau, Eng., MBA, and Chief Engineer of Orbite, a Qualified Person under the terms of Regulation 43-101 Respecting Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (Quebec).
Incorporated in 1981, as a public sector enterprise of the Government of India, National Aluminium Company Limited (Nalco) is Asia’s largest integrated aluminium complex, encompassing bauxite mining, alumina refining, aluminium smelting and casting, power generation, rail and port operations. Commissioned during 1985-87, Nalco has emerged to be a star performer in production, export of alumina and aluminium, and more significantly, in propelling a self-sustained growth. http://www.nalcoindia.com/
Orbite currently owns 100% of the mining rights over a total of 60,984 hectares including the Grande-Vallee property measuring 6,665 hectares, the site of an aluminous clay deposit located 23 km south of Grande-Vallee, and a 2,600 m2 facility in the process of being converted into a high-purity alumina plant in Cap Chat, in the Gaspe region. An NI 43-101 report identified over 1 billion tonnes of aluminous clay in part of the deposit. The Company also owns ten different families of intellectual property rights (and patent pending), protected by Canadian and U.S. patents, for extracting alumina and for which patents are also pending in other countries.
Certain information contained in this document may include “forward-looking information”. Without limiting the foregoing, the information and any forward-looking information may include statements regarding projects, costs, objectives and future returns of the Company or hypotheses underlying these items. In this document, words such as “may”, “would”, “could”, “will”, “likely”, “believe”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “estimate” and similar words and the negative form thereof are used to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements should not be read as guarantees of future performance or results, and will not necessarily be accurate indications of whether, or the times at or by which, such future performance will be achieved. Forward-looking statements and information are based on information available at the time and/or the Company management’s good-faith beliefs with respect to future events and are subject to known or unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other unpredictable factors, many of which are beyond the Company’s control. These risks uncertainties and assumptions include, but are not limited to, those described in the section of the Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) entitled “Risk and Uncertainties” as filed on March 22, 2012 on SEDAR, and could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements. The Company does not intend, nor does it undertake, any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information or statements contained in this document to reflect subsequent information, events or circumstances or otherwise, except as required by applicable laws.
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