Rio Tinto has begun what it says is Australia’s largest-ever demolition project, and will disassemble an expected 142,000 tonnes of scrap steel at the Northern Territory’s Gove alumina refinery to be shipped for recycling.
The site operated from 1972 until being put in care and maintenance in 2014. It previously converted bauxite into alumina, and in 2017 Rio Tinto ruled out the possibility this would resume.
Bauxite mining on the Gove Peninsula is expected to end “later this decade”.
According to a statement from the company on Tuesday, the current demolition will involve the equivalent of “three Sydney Harbour bridges, or 21 Eiffel Towers” worth of steel.
A first shipment of 15,000 tonnes of scrap steel (pictured), recently departed for Asia. The steel will be recycled into wire, bar and beam products.
A total of ten shipments is expected to be made.
”As well as being a feat in Australia’s history of demolition, the project is also one of the largest underway around the world,” said Rio Tinto Gove Closure General Manager James Low.
“This iconic site holds a lot of memories for the thousands of people who worked here over the last five decades. But even more significant is the immemorial connection that the Gumatj Traditional Owners have with the land. We are excited to be part of the work that returns the site to them.”
Decommissioning specialist Liberty Industrial is leading the refinery demolition.
According to Liberty’s website, it has delivered demolition and remediation projects “including the removal of entire refining facilities and process plants like the Shell Clyde Oil Refinery, BHP Billiton’s Hot Briquette Iron Ore plant and Rio Tinto’s HIsmelt facility.”
“We are very pleased with how this substantial project has been going, with the first of many scrap load outs successfully completed in better-than-expected time,” said Liberty Industrial’s Project Director Anthony Milanich.
“We look forward to continuing our journey with Rio Tinto and Traditional Owners, who we consult and work with closely.”