11 December 2013 — Curtin University’s Sustainable Engineering Group has made a breakthrough that could change how Western Australia builds roads.
A team from SEG demonstrated that red sand could be used as a viable, more sustainable alternative to virgin sand and limestone in road construction.
Red sand has previously been considered as an unusable waste product from the extraction of alumina from bauxite ores. Alcoa’s three WA refineries produce about 30,000 tonnes of red mud and 18,000 tonnes of residue sand a day, which combine to make up red sand.
Using red sand in road construction would significantly reduce the need for quarries to extract virgin sand or limestone, the Curtin researchers said.
The benefits of using red sand for roads (based on use of 600,000 tonnes a year over 35-years) include:
- avoiding around 66,200 tonnes of CO2 emissions
- conserving around 407 hectares of land, with corresponding preservation of vegetation and biodiversity
- reduced costs of $18 million to the construction industry and potentially many more millions, depending on the fate of the federal carbon tax
WA’s Department of Main Roads has conducted trials of red sand on a section of Greenlands Road, which connects the Forrest Highway to the South Western Highway at Pinjarra.
Red sand could be commercially available from as early as next year.
- See our recent article The 21st century road could take you somewhere interesting… and more sustainable