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John Day Columbia Aluminum (#0419)

John Day Columbia Aluminum (#0419)
Adjacent to John Day Dam was a large aluminum smelter. Making aluminum requires very high amounts of electricity, thus it was appropriate to build the smelter next to a hydroelectric dam. The smelter began operation in 1969 and changed hands many times over the years, it stopped operation in 2003. Currently the owners manage hazardous and solid waste at the site. Due to the nature of aluminum smelting, the site is likely to be highly contaminated with asbestos. The only information I could find about the site came from the following two sources:

Washington state:

Aluminum extractive metallurgy is by electrolysis, essentially the same process as the school demonstration of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen--just at a very large scale! And since you're (basically) electrolyzing molten aluminum oxide, the temperatures involved are extreme by everyday standards. Extracting aluminum is so electricity-intensive it's worth sending aluminum oxide concentrates halfway around the world to places with cheap electricity--e.g., bauxite from Jamaica to Norway.

Those temperatures are why asbestos and/or similar refractories are used. And, asbestos can be used perfectly safely, with a little common sense. The current regs are a bit of an overreaction to the "wonder fiber" hype of the early 20th century, as well as to the carelessness with which it was often applied.
2 months ago. Edited 2 months ago.
Don Barrett (aka DBs… has replied to slgwv
I had always heard that aluminum was very energy intensive to process, but didn't know the details. Re mineral regs, unfortunately it seems that American industry seldom voluntarily looks to be clean. I don't know if other countries are better about that, but the recent VW scandal, the London fire, and Chinese manufacturing in general, suggest that you can't count on industry to be their own best policemen.
2 months ago.