At Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun, we reported 89 non-compliances against our environmental authority (licence) during 2013. At QAL we reported 14 non-compliances.

Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun experienced a 1 in 2000 year rainfall event in January 2013, with more than 1000mm of rain falling at our Residue Management Area (RMA), causing a release of water. Extensive water sampling showed the water released from the RMA met the requirements for stock watering. Downstream land holders were kept informed of the quality of the water being released. The Deparment of Environment and Heritage Protection issued the refinery a breach notice for the release of water from the RMA.

Ongoing issues with total suspended solids (TSS) from the Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun refinery continued to cause stormwater releases to be in excess of our TSS licence limit. TSS reduction and stormwater management improvements mean that there are less stormwater releases from the refinery site and the concentration of TSS is reducing.

A large number of non-compliances with the environmental authority are due to small hydrocarbon leaks from machinery at the RMA wall raise project and at the refinery. These are all reported promptly and cleaned up immediately.

Reliability, maintenance and operation of monitoring equipment has lead to a number of non-compliances with the environmental authority (licence). Yawun is currently investing people, resources and capital towards a black belt project to improve the reliability, maintenance and operation of all critical environmental monitoring equipment on site.

At QAL, the negotiation of a new environmental authority has major implications for the way we operate. To comply with some of the conditions, we have committed to twelve transitional capital projects over the next three years.

There were two major environmental incidences recorded at QAL in 2013. Both were a result of the extreme one in 2000-year rain event in January. The cases related to the water quality in the discharges from the stormwater ponds. Three other incidents related to water quality in the discharge of the red mud dam occurred in August and September, as well as the stormwater pond following a rain event in November.

We discharged from our site containment ponds where the pH breached our licence conditions for pH levels. While we reached the capacity of the red mud dam, the discharge was contained within the emergency spill area.. A transitional discharge licence was granted. Most of the environmental issues during the year related to dust, noise and odour.



QAL has increased its dust and noise monitoring capability within the community as part of its Transitional Environmental Programme to reduce dust. Scheduled to finish in 2015, these projects include upgrades to the dust collector systems at various transfer points and modifications to the alumina transfer systems to reduce dust emissions. We are pleased to report that Utilities and Calcination emissions were below the licence requirements for 2013. Stack emissions testing highlighted issues with the gas suspension calciner dust collector performance. These have been investigated and fixed.

Air quality monitoring at Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun is undertaken through continuous online monitoring and quarterly testing by specialist service providers. Yarwun achiveved a significant reduction in sulphur emissions in 2013, with sulphur scrubbing on boiler 3 reducing emissions by 90 per cent. Dust monitoring was also undertaken at the three Yarwun operational sites - thewharf, the refinery and the RMA.

There are three capital projects underway in 2014 to reduce dust emissions at the Yarun refinery’s Fisherman’s Landing wharf facility, including improvements to the boom conveyor, jetty conveyor and the transfer tower electrical compressors.


At Yarwun, we reduced our total suspended solids (TSS) by mulching and covering exposed surfaces in 2013. We also reorganised laydown areas to control drainage. The installation of electric stormwater pumps means we are able to reduce the number of stormwater releases from site. Although the site won’t meet its license requirements we are confident there are strategies in place that will continue to drive improvement.

At QAL we are undertaking a $5 million pond modification project to secure stormwater runoff on the west side of the plant. It will ensure there is enough storage volume for a potential rupture of a tank and the capacity to store a one in 50-year rain event without having to discharge.

Also at QAL we are also commissioning the return of grey water from the Boyne Island and Tannum Sands treatment plants in the third quarter of 2014. This will result in a 10 per cent reduction of raw water usage from Awoonga Dam.


We developed a comprehensive programme of works to reduce our erosion and sediment risks at Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun in 2013. Around 26,000m3 of mulch has been spread on exposed earth surfaces and 26 hectares of land revegetated. Drainage has been improved and laydown yards stabilised.

At QAL 2,000 trees were planted on 70 hectares of buffer land, on the north west side of the plant. . The trees were planted to help revegetate the old decommissioned sand and ash ponds and to provide a visual buffer between the plant and Barney Point.

Looking Forward

Yarwun will continue to implement and collect data for the Air Emissions Verification Study as required by the Environmental Authority. Land use approvals for the RMA 2 lot are a priority for 2014. Noise monitoring will be conducted during 2014 to update the noise profile of the refinery after the Yarwun 2 plant capcity increase.

Monitoring in Port Curtis will continue throughout 2014, including the Receiving Environment Monitoring Programm (REMP) and monitoring conducted by the Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Programme (PCIMP). The Yarwun refinery is a member of the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership and will continue to provide input to the partnership. The refinery is also an active member of the Gladstone Air Network Initiative and will continue to support this valuable project monitoring the health of Gladstone’s airshed.

A very successful 2013 RMA dam wall raise project was delivered two months earlier than required by the Environmental Authority. Achieving the same results for the 2014 RMA dam wall raise will remain a strong focus for the business in 2014.

QAL will start the REMP with monthly monitoring of water quality parameters during the next year. PCIMP will be incorporated into the REMP.QAL will also conduct four studies required under our new Environmental Authority in 2014. These include:

An air emission verification study

A direct toxicity assessment

Management plan of red mud dam discharge

Development of a real time dispersion model for air discharges from the plan

QAL also wants to ensure ongoing certification with ISO 140001.

QAL Figures





Significant environmental incidents




Non-compliance with licence conditions



50% reduction

Freshwater use (ML)




Freshwater use efficiency (kL/t alumina)




Seawater use (ML)




Sulphur dioxide emissions (t)


No licence breaches


Nitrogen dioxide emissions (t)


No licence breaches


Waste recycled (t)




Land revegetation (ha)




Greenhouse gas emissions (t C02-e)




Greenhouse gas efficiency (t C02-e/t alumina)




Bayer process energy use (GJ)




Bayer process energy efficiency (GJ/t alumina)




Performance fell short of target   Target met/exceeded   No target set/not measured

Yarwun Figures




2014 Target

Environmental incidents (medium and above)


Non-compliance with licence conditions



30% reduction

Freshwater use (ML)



Freshwater use efficiency (kL/t alumina)


Seawater use (ML)



Sulphur dioxide emissions

292.51 (t)


30% reduction

Nitrogen dioxide emissions

1287.9 (t)


No license breaches

Waste recycled (t)




Land revegetation (ha)



No target set

Greenhouse gas emissions (t C02-e)


Refer to efficiency target

Greenhouse gas efficiency (t C02-e/t alumina)




Bayer process energy use (GJ)




Bayer process energy efficiency (GJ/t alumina)




Performance fell short of target   Target met/exceeded   No target set/not measured

Case Studies

Air monitors installed around Gladstone

QAL has installed three new air monitors around Gladstone, taking the total number of monitors to five. The new monitors have been installed next to the Barney Point Scout Hall and near the South Gladstone School and Toolooa State High School. The equipment features a continuous noise logger, so we can go back and play the audio if required.

Greater control over water quality at Yarwun

Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun now has greater control over the quality of water leaving site after the installation of new pH meters. It is a requirement under the new operating license that data on the water leaving and entering the sites external drainage system is collected. The pH meters have been installed on the outfall point of the northern and eastern ponds, which capture water before it leaves the site during heavy rainfall events to ensure the water quality is in line with permit conditions. In the case of a rainfall event or controlled discharge, the water in the trough system is displaced to allow the incoming water to be measured. The meters are connected to the site’s distributed control system, which shows real time data and will allow analysis of water pH over time. An alarm is triggered if the pH quality is out of range.