Bauxite to BadRoads
High red mud content in new pothole patch
Chad Bryan, Sunday Gleaner Writer
The International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS), an agency of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (MSTEM), has developed a new low-cost mix to repair potholes using a blend made from red mud, the waste material produced from bauxite processing.
It is a cementitious product, meaning that it has the properties of cement.
Dubbed NEWMAT-1, the pothole patch was launched last Friday at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), where ICENS is based.
The initiative springs from the experiences of director general of ICENS Dr Richard Annells, a foreigner who had difficulty driving on a few of the island's pothole-filled roads during his first weekend in Jamaica three years ago. As a result, Annells approached Professor Peter Claise of the University of Coventry in the United Kingdom, whose speciality is concrete and construction.
This spawned the project funded by MSTEM, which costs less than $7 million.
Containing 10 per cent lime, 10 per cent waste gypsum, and 60 per cent red mud, along with 20 per cent terra rossa (or earth), it is cheaper to use on roads than concrete.
The cementitious blend, which will also be used with locally available aggregates (sand and stone), is expected to remain in place many times longer than road patches currently done with aggregates, which are easily ejected during heavy rainfall. The product can also be used to fill trenches excavated to install a water pipe, for example.
With a 24-hour window to dry after being applied to a pothole, the mixture will harden to take heavy traffic. However, the low-strength mixture, though capable of withstanding heavy traffic, is not suitable for highways.
Last Friday, Annells said the next move is to have NEWMAT-1 bagged.
Addressing the launch, Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell said: "We're going to have it patented in another couple of months. Hopefully, early next year, we can start some trials, and I am offering my own constituency."
He added: "The material has been determined to last much longer than current products that we use to do road construction and, in particular, to fill potholes. That is very significant. We know that with every flood, we see deterioration in our road surface. It is significantly cheaper also."
Paulwell added that there is a need to dispose of residue from the alumina process and that this new technology has the added benefit of potential revenue creation.
Paulwell explained that a 50-metre stretch of roadway outside of ICENS was paved with the blend at an estimated cost of $220,000. Using regular concrete would have cost $570,000. Paulwell admitted, however, that the product's commercial value would have to be hammered out.