Rio Tinto is undertaking what is says will be the largest demolition project in Australia’s history at its Gove alumina refinery site in the Northern Territory.
The major has begun shipping the equivalent of three Sydney Harbour bridges, or 21 Eiffel Towers, in scrap steel for recycling.
The demolition is part of the broader closure program at Rio Tinto’s Gove operations in east Arnhem land.
Bauxite mining is expected to cease at the operations later this decade after more than 40 years supplying the global aluminium industry.
The first shipment, containing about 15,000 tonnes of scrap steel, recently left the Gove wharf for Asia to be converted into new steel wire, bar and beam products.
In total, 142,000 tonnes of steel in 10 shipments will be exported to Asia from the Gove refinery site, where demolition began last year.
Around 300,000 tonnes of concrete will also be recycled for local road construction and other projects.
“This iconic site holds a lot of memories for the thousands of people who worked here over the last five decades,” Rio Tinto Gove closure general manager James Low said.
“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.”
“The Gumatj are integral to what we are doing at the refinery. They are the key decision-makers for how the site will be left in the future, including whether infrastructure like the wharfs and warehouses will be handed over for ongoing use. Their business arm is also supplying equipment for the demolition.”
The Gove refinery processed bauxite mined nearby into alumina from 1972 to 2014.
In 2017 the decision was made to permanently close the refinery, and work began to prepare the site for demolition and remediation.