Rio Tinto begins demolition project at its Gove alumina refinery site

Truck prepares to load scrap steel onto the first of 10 shipments from the Gove demolition. Each ship will carry around 15,000 tonnes, or the equivalent of two Eiffel Towers of steel. Image credit: Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is executing Australia’s largest demolition project at its Gove alumina refinery site, shipping scrap steel equivalent to three Sydney Harbour bridges for recycling.

The demolition is part of a larger closure program at Rio Tinto’s Gove Operations in East Arnhem Land, where bauxite mining will end later this decade.

A shipment of 15,000 tonnes of scrap steel has been sent to Asia for conversion into new steel products. The Gove Refinery site, where demolition began last year, will export 142,000 tonnes of steel in 10 shipments. Additionally, 300,000 tonnes of concrete will be recycled for local road construction projects.

From 1972 to 2014, the Gove Refinery converted bauxite mined nearby into alumina. The decision to permanently close the refinery was reached in 2017, and work began to prepare the site for demolition and remediation.


“This iconic site holds a lot of memories for the thousands of people who worked here over the last five decades. 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,” Rio Tinto Gove Closure General Manager James Low said.

“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.”

Liberty Industrial is leading the Gove alumina refinery demolition project.

”The refinery demolition and remediation project is targeting completion in 2027. Bauxite mining at Gove is planned to continue until later this decade. Rehabilitation of the broader Gove site will continue into the 2030s,” Liberty Industrial Gove Refinery Gove Closure Project Director Anthony Milanich said.

“We are very pleased with how this substantial project has been going, with the first of many scrap load outs successfully completed in better-than-expected time,” Milanich stated.

“We look forward to continuing our journey with Rio Tinto and Traditional Owners, who we consult and work with closely. This close collaboration has helped us find solutions to a number of challenges associated with a project of this size and complexity in a remote location,” he added.