Yarwun refinery environmental win with water use reduction

Yarwun refinery environmental win with water use reduction

Rio Tinto’s Yarwun alumina refinery has reduced its raw water consumption by 30 per cent over the last five years.

The refinery, which began exporting alumina in 2004, has reduced raw water consumption from 28,000 cubic metres to 20,000 cubic metres per day.

General Manager Mark Gilmore said the achievement is part of the refinery’s ongoing work to operate in a way that is not only safe for employees, contractors and the community, but also better for the environment.

“Our operational teams were able to cut raw water consumption by one third by successfully completing a number of small-scale projects that, when combined, have led to this impressive result,” Mr Gilmore said.

Some of the small projects that led to the reduction in water usage included quickly identifying and fixing leaks, improving the reliability of equipment using water, dropping steam temperatures in the refining process, and recycling condensate from the steam for use as cooling or wash water.

Other water consumption reduction work involved improvements to materials handling design to reduce water in the operation’s bauxite transfer point.

The projects have reduced the use of fresh water and recycled the water generated within the process more effectively, meaning the system is more volume and energy-efficient.

“We’re keenly aware that water is a precious resource not only in our region but across Australia. We will continue to find innovative ways to further reduce our water use with new projects underway to achieve that,” Mr Gilmore said.


Fast facts about Rio Tinto Yarwun

  • Yarwun Refinery is 100 per cent owned by Rio Tinto.
  • Construction of the refinery began in 2002, and the first alumina was shipped in 2004.
  • Approximately 700 people are employed at Yarwun, the majority of whom live in the Gladstone Region. About 500 contractors are employed for annual shutdowns and other activities.
  • Yarwun Refinery’s annual production exceeds 3 million tonnes of alumina.
  • In 2019, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative granted its Performance Standard and Chain of Custody certifications to Yarwun Refinery. ASI certification means aluminium purchased has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to human rights.