1988: The birth of the ‘Alumina Quality Workshop’
Prior to the mid-1980s the focus on key relevant conferences for the alumina industry was the ‘Light Metals’ section of the annual TMS meeting of the AIME in the USA. The Bauxite & Alumina sessions were a significant part of the overall program, but smaller than those dealing with Aluminium Smelting. However, the aluminium industry in the USA in the 1980s was undergoing a restructure with bauxite mines and alumina refineries shutting down as mines and refineries opened up overseas, especially driven by the big American producers. As a result, the TMS gave less emphasis to its Bauxite & Alumina sessions, and the quality and quantity of papers dropped off. A number of alumina industry people based in Australia noticed this and were concerned; could Australia establish a suitable forum to allow a free flow of information and exchange of ideas in a traditionally closed industry? In addition, cost restrictions on overseas travel made annual attendance at the TMS difficult, so there was impetus to get an Australian-based technical conference happening. Alumina quality was chosen as an area of interest that was not well covered at Light Metals and elsewhere, and which would lend itself to open dialogue in an area of general interest. And to not be too adventurous, a biennial meeting was envisaged.
The result was the foundation Alumina Quality Workshop held in 1988 at Gladstone with QAL as the major sponsor. The involvement of an alumina producer, on a rotational basis, as the major driving force for each Workshop was established at the start and has continued to this day. Peter McIntosh (QAL) was the chair of the first organising committee, which also included two key university researchers: Barry Welch and Mark Wainwright. To organize this significant event took two years of planning.
The technical papers can be accessed via the 'Papers' page. For the Opening Address and Plenary texts, click on the names of the authors: Robert Druitt, Fraser Ainsworth, Ian Gould, and Norman Stephen.
Growth and Diversification
From there AQW grew to become a major international conference with over 300 delegates and 60+ technical papers.
|Title/Index||Year||Sub-Title||Location (Australia)||Host||Chairperson||Technical Lead||Tours|
|1 AQW||1988||Smelter Grade Alumina for the 1990s and Beyond||Gladstone||Comalco/QAL||Peter McIntosh||QAL refinery & Boyne smelter|
|2 AQW||1990||Alumina Quaility in a Highly Dynamic Market Environment||Perth||Alcoa||Dennis Mason||Alcoa refineries, residue areas & mine|
Alumina Quality - meeting customer needs
|Hunter Valley||Alcan||Tomago smelter|
|4 AQW||1996||Darwin||Nabalco||David Syme||Gove refinery|
|5 AQW||1999||Advances in Alumina Technology||Bunbury||Worsley||Paul Potter||Robert Morton||Worsley or Wagerup (Alcoa) refinery|
|6 AQW||2002||Brisbane||Comalco/QAL||Daniel Thomas||Sringeri Chandrashekar||QAL refinery & Boyne smelter|
|7 AQW||2005||Sustainability in the Industry||Perth||Alcoa||Michael Nunes||Anthony McKinnon||Alcoa refineries, residue areas & mine|
|8 AQW||2008||Alumina for the 21st Century||Darwin||Rio Tinto Alcan||Steve Healy||Lyndon Armstrong||Gove refinery|
|9 AQW||2012||Zero Harm in the Alumina Industry||Perth||Worsley||Steve Rosenberg||Geoff Blunt||Worsley refinery, Boddington Mine, or CSIRO Waterford|
|10 AQW||2015||Innovation - Refining Our Future||Perth||Alcoa||Sharon Eyer||Marisa Ioppolo-Armanios||Alcoa refineries, residue areas & mine|
|Alumina 2018||2018||Efficiency for the Future||Gladstone||Anthony Canfell||Meagan Ladhams||QAL & Yarwun refineries|
2 AQW 1990
Following the success of the first Workshop, plans were made for the next in Perth in 1990, with Dennis Mason (Alcoa) chairing the organising committee. The Opening Address was given by Sir Arvi Parbo. This was again a successful meeting, but because the organisation of the Workshop was a substantial effort, it was decided to move to a triennial conference.
The Alumina Quality Workshop was formalized as an incorporated non-profit organisation in 1990. AQW (Inc.) became the association charged with the organisation and production of the AQW conference. The AQW (Inc.) executive committee has consisted of representatives of each of the major Australian alumina producers, with the chair (and host) rotating for each conference. The Committee was later expanded to include a customer, Norsk Hydro (now Hydro, also a major alumina producer), a producer with no interests in Australia, EGA, and the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) representing the overall bauxite-to-aluminium industry. Apart from the conference, AQW (Inc.) was constituted to undertake technical investigations, research and the promotion of tertiary education, in support of the future needs and betterment of the alumina refining and smelting industries.
3 AQW 1993
Going from strength to strength, the third AQW was held in 1993, in the Hunter Valley, NSW, with Alcan as the major sponsor. A questionnaire put to attendees at this Workshop clearly indicated that the technical focus should be broadened to all aspects of bauxite refining to alumina, not just alumina quality. This was a major change which has continued in all subsequent Workshops.
4 AQW 1996
Having established a successful formula for including alumina producers, researchers, suppliers and customers, as well as a visit to a local refinery and/or smelter in the program, the Workshop was held in Darwin with Nabalco as the major sponsor. The number of quality papers accepted was such that parallel sessions were introduced for the first time. In addition, papers for a poster session were included. A keynote address on fluid dynamics modelling was given by MC Welsh et al.
5 AQW 1999
|Tony Bagshaw (AMIRA); Steve Rosenberg (Worsley); Luke McQUiness (Alcoa) at 5AQW|
The major sponsorship moved to Worsley Alumina for this Workshop in Bunbury, WA. This Conference marked the beginning of strong interest from exhibitors and a large exhibition area, which has since become a hallmark of AQW conferences.
6 AQW 2002
|Thanks to Alfredo Tordosi, Special Projects Manager and talented artist at Eurallumina (Sardinia), for this painting.|
|Delegates loved the Italian leather satchel!|
Comalco and QAL were the joint major sponsors for this Workshop, held in Brisbane. With each Workshop AQW was growing larger, attracting more delegates and papers as the industry continued to expand and open up. The response to the call for papers was excellent.
One interesting aside related to the Wednesday program to fly delegates from Brisbane to Gladstone for the plant tours at the QAL refinery and the Boyne smelter. Sringeri Chandrashekar, the Technical Committee Chair, was responsible for organising the Qantas flight, but he had to pull out at the last moment. Apparently this caused some minor consternation amongst the passengers – the date was September 11, 2002, exactly one year after 9/11!
7 AQW 2005
Artwork: 'Rose of the West' by Helen Clark Artist/Printmaker
The Workshop returned to Perth with Alcoa the major sponsor. It focussed on sustainability in the industry with topics covering exploration, mining, refining, residue disposal and rehabilitation. By now global alumina production was 62 million annual tonnes more than double what it was during first AQW in 1988. This was against a background of substantial improvements in environmental and safety performance, and an increasing focus on sustainability. The industry was already positioning itself as an environmentally friendly, greenhouse-gas neutral option for the future, looking to technologists and engineers for the enabling solutions.
8 AQW 2008
The Workshop returned to Darwin with Rio Tinto Alcan as the Host Sponsor and Bokela as Proceedings Sponsor. The numbers of international delegates and authors continued to increase, demonstrating the global standing of the event. University students were again encouraged to attend and present posters; for more detail see the Education section below.
9 AQW 2012
Perth was the venue for this Workshop, with BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina the major sponsor. On its triennial basis, the Workshop was due to be held in 2011. However, since AQW 2008, the international alumina community endured several years of very challenging conditions, against a backdrop of severe global economic turmoil. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, industry support for AQW 2012 was remarkable. The response to the call for papers was excellent and the Workshop again attracted a large number of delegates from around the world.
Post-Conference Workshop: Bauxite Residue Storage and Management Best Practice
A 1-day post-conference workshop was sponsored by IAI to bring together operational and technical experts from the global alumina industry to discuss current and future bauxite residue management practices, to identify a set of design and operational criteria that recognise and promote best practices for the sustainable management of bauxite residue storage facilities.This was an important first step in the development of the Bauxite Residue Best Practice document released in 2013, and updated in 2015.
10 AQW 2015
Again in Perth, this time with Alcoa as the major sponsor.
Innovation plenary: Prof Fiona Wood
|Art & Industry Exhibition|
The Workshop theme, “Innovation: Refining Our Future”, highlighted the importance of innovation for not just surviving but excelling in times of challenging global conditions. “Even amidst a global financial crisis and streamlined operations exciting advancements were constantly taking place. Sharing much of the international alumina industry research and development is restricted by intellectual property constraints. Nonetheless there are still many opportunities to share knowledge. Innovations that improve integration with the environment (such as residue and mine rehabilitation) are obviously worth sharing. Innovations in analysis and engineering can benefit the industry as a whole by improving efficiency and reducing waste. Collaborative strategic research and technical investigations support the future needs and betterment of the alumina refining and smelting industries as a whole.”
New initiatives at 10 AQW included a Conference App and engaging a professional MC, Karen Tighe. Both were well received by delegates, sponsors and exhibitors.
Post-Conference Workshop: Residue Closure and Rehabilitation
A 1-day post-conference workshop on Residue was again sponsored by IAI, further examining the issues and reviewing progress in bauxite residue management since the 2012 workshop.
11 AQW: Alumina 2018
Rio Tinto was the host for this AQW, fittingly returning to its birthplace of Gladstone for its 30th anniversary. Gladstone is a modern city that has grown around an industrial backbone featuring two alumina refineries with a combined annual production of 7Mt of alumina. Meanwhile, the Workshop has evolved into a major international conference, incorporating all aspects of the production of alumina. In recognition of this evolution the conference name was rebranded to ‘Alumina 2018’.
|Delegates at Alumina 2018|
|Gala Dinner setting|
The conference theme “Efficiency for the Future” reflected the current industry focus on cost reduction, optimisation of raw materials & energy use and the adoption of new technology.
“This continual drive for improved efficiency will ultimately result in a sustained and thriving alumina industry for the future.” Karen Tighe was again engaged as MC. As has become AQW tradition, the Producers and Suppliers Exhibiton was a great success and a key feature of the Conference.
All invited speakers were presented with a miniature sculpture of a dugong, the iconic sea creature of the nearby Great Barrier Reef, hand crafted in locally-produced aluminium by Queensland artist Katrina Elliott.
|Dugong sculpture||Prize winners and committee members|
Post-Conference Workshop: The Alumina Technology Roadmap to 2050
|Roadmap Workshop Forum|
Building on the success of previous Roadmaps, this IAI-sponsored workshop initiated the development of a new, web-based Roadmap to a sustainable, carbon-neutral future. ATR 2050 is due for release mid-2022.
Sponsorship, Research & Education
Role of external research providers
The advent of the AQW conferences increased the willingness of Australian alumina producers to cooperate in initiating and funding collaborative research projects. While companies operated their own R&D/technical departments, it became evident that external research providers, such as universities and CSIRO, could contribute relevant expertise. Universities including Curtin and Murdoch in Perth, the University of SA in Adelaide, University of NSW in Sydney and the University of Queensland in Brisbane were canvassed to indicate what expertise they might contribute in areas which could be seen as non-competitive. One such area was the fundamental chemistry of the precipitation process.
The companies created the Alumina Technical Panel to coordinate these efforts, and a number of research projects got underway. The Australian Mineral Industries Research Organisation (AMIRA, later AMIRA International), with a long expertise in managing collaborative research projects for different mineral sectors, was engaged. A good background to this was the paper (“Collaborative Research for the International Alumina Industry”) presented by Bagshaw and Stribley (both with AMIRA) at AQW 2002 in Brisbane.
In the same period, the Australian Government initiated two research programs which significantly benefitted collaborative alumina research:
- The Cooperative Research Centres program, commenced in 1992. In particular, the A J Parker CRC for Hydrometallurgy was a substantial contributor over two decades.
- The CSIRO Light Metals Flagship initiative which ran for a decade from 2003.
Recognition of Workshop standing in the international community
The growth in interest in the AQW program soon became evident as the Workshops progressed through the 1990s. Overseas delegates increased in number, both as authors and attendees. At the 2018 Workshop there were 309 delegates, of whom a third came from overseas. This was matched by the broader range of industrial sponsors who recognised the opportunity to meet with a captive international audience.
Sponsorship and role of host company as well as suppliers (in broadest sense) to Workshops
Producing a successful international conference is challenging, both in terms of cost and committing staff resources. The sponsoring alumina producer for each AQW has been the major financial contributor. Obviously delegates paid for their registration. However, a substantial contribution has come from sponsorships by engineering companies, equipment and reagent suppliers, consultants and others. This source of funding increased as the reputation of successive AQWs rose: such sponsors saw opportunities to deal directly with a broad range of alumina producers. This became increasingly evident as the sponsors’ exhibition area was used as the venue for morning and afternoon breaks as well as the lunch period, where delegates could talk directly with exhibitors.
Here is a partial list of the sponsor numbers:
AQW 1988: 8 sponsors and 7 exhibitors
AQW 1993: 11 sponsors
AQW 1996: 23 sponsors
AQW 1999: 23 sponsors
AQW 2012: 33 exhibitors (7 major, 4 minor)
AQW 2015: 1 Pt, 6 Au, 1 Ag, 7 others, IAI sponsored workshop, 22 exhibitors
The education program
The success of AQW conferences led to an operating surplus which was kept in trust. In 1996 it was decided to use some of these funds to finance Scholarships for final year university students, marking the start of the AQW Education Program. Initially coordinated by an AQW Education sub-committee chaired for many years by Bogdan Skomra from QAL, the program is now managed by two Education Officers, Alistair Gillespie (Rio Tinto) and Elaine Tolentino (South 32), as part of the Executive Committee agenda.
The numbers of scholarships supported since 2011 are shown below. For more details go to the Education page.
From 4 AQW in 1996, university students have been sponsored to attend and present posters. Numbers reached a peak of 23 at the 2012 conference, falling to 13 in 2015 and 12 in 2018.
In 2017 it was decided to extend the education program to include PhD studies. So far, two PhD scholarships have been fully funded and another was 50% funded by AQW: