Oct 03, 2017

Golden milestone for alumina giant

Golden milestone for alumina giant

A processing business dubbed ‘the giant that never sleeps’ celebrates 50 years of operation in 2017.

Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) opened in Gladstone in 1967, with the first shipment of alumina sailing from the wharf on June 9.

An international consortium of Alcan Aluminium, Conzinc Rio Tinto (CRA), Pechiney and Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corporation was behind its establishment.

The QAL site in the 1960s.

Gladstone was chosen as the location for its access to a deep water harbour, natural resources and railway.

At the time QAL was one of the largest alumina refineries in the world, producing 544,000 tonnes per annum of the world’s best smelter grade alumina.

Today this figure has increased to 3.80 million tonnes.

Health, safety and environment manager Ross Greenhalgh (pictured below) is the longest serving employee at QAL, having started as a process engineer in 1975.

“When I first started we had different uniforms, aluminium hard hats (as opposed to the plastic ones we have today) and the town of Gladstone was much smaller,” Mr Greenhalgh said.

“But one thing that has never changed about QAL that I know I will cherish forever is the mateship within the people who have worked at QAL. It really is like a family and I feel that this has never changed”

In the early years post commissioning in 1967, QAL underwent four expansions to take production to 2.7 million tonnes per year.

Mr Greenhalgh said further production increases were achieved through the introduction of a sweetening bauxite in 1990 and continued debottlenecking.

“Other major changes were the replacement of fuel oil firing of calcination kilns with natural gas and then in 2003 the rotary kilns were replaced by the three flash calciners that stand today,” he said.

“This was one significant milestone that I won’t forget that benefitted not only the company but also the nearby community with reduced fugitive dust emissions.”

QAL – majority owned by Rio Tinto – sources its bauxite from mines at Weipa and Gove.

Its alumina feeds Boyne Smelters Limited, also located in Gladstone, and other smelters worldwide.

(All photos courtesy of Queensland Alumina Limited)