A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between Hindalco Industries Ltd, one of the global leaders in aluminium and copper, and UltraTech Cement Ltd, India’s largest manufacturer of cement, as per which Hindalco will deliver 1.2 million metric tonnes of red mud (also known as bauxite residue) annually to UltraTech’s 14 plants located across 7 states. Both companies are part of the Aditya Birla Group. 

Hindalco is now the world’s first company to achieve 100 per cent red mud utilisation. Hindalco is supplying red mud to UltraTech Cement plants where it has been proved to be an effective substitute for mined materials, successfully replacing up to 3 per cent of clinker raw mix volume. Use of red mud reduces the cement industry’s dependence on natural resources. Through this MoU, both companies hope to promote a circular economy.

According to the company, this is a major step in reducing the cement industry’s dependence on mined material. Red mud generated in the alumina manufacturing process is rich in iron oxides, along with alumina, silica and alkali. The cement industry has developed the capability to process red mud as a replacement for mined minerals such as laterite and lithomarge in its process.

Hindalco’s alumina refineries are currently supplying 250,000 metric tonnes of bauxite residue to 40 cement plants every month, making Hindalco the world’s first company to have enabled such large-scale commercial application of bauxite residue. This year, Hindalco aims to achieve 2.5 million metric tonnes of bauxite residue utilisation. Hindalco also supplies to companies such as ACC, Jaypee, Heidelberg Cement, Ambuja Cement, Dalmia Cement, and JSW Cement.

Globally, 160 million metric tonnes of red mud is produced annually and stored in large tracts of land. The current practice for all domestic aluminium producers has been to store red mud in ponds close to the refineries. 

As informed by the company spokesperson in response to queries from CauseBecause, Hindalco has invested over five years of time and intensive R&D effort to identify and demonstrate a permanent and sustainable solution for the disposal of bauxite residue, one that can be used by the aluminium industry worldwide. Hindalco has invested in infrastructure and collaborated with cement companies, with UltraTech Cement being a key partner. Last year, UltraTech consumed about 15.73 million metric tonnes of industrial waste as alternate raw material and about 300,000 metric tonnes as alternative fuel in its kilns.

As per the spokesperson, the global cement industry is researching a few other applications of red mud to make a special type of cement. In one case, 10–30 per cent of red mud is being explored to replace the limestone itself, while in another it is being used as a special cementitious material where it will replace fly ash. Both of these are in the initial research phase. Use of bauxite residue in cement making can play an important role in the long-term sustainability of aluminium and cement industries.

In a press release, Satish Pai, managing director at Hindalco, says, ‘Hindalco has been working with cement companies to develop high-grade inputs for the construction industry. Hindalco has built a strong customer base and supplies red mud to over 40 cement plants every month. We have achieved 100% red mud utilisation at three of our refineries and our vision is to achieve zero-waste alumina production across our operations. Hindalco’s actions underscore our commitment to embracing solutions that have the potential to deliver long-term sustainability impact and transform the future.’

KC Jhanwar, managing director, UltraTech Cement, says that with the annual supply of 1.2 million metric tonnes of red mud from Hindalco, ‘we expect to conserve more than 1 million metric tonnes of mined natural resources like laterite in our manufacturing process.’