Meet the ESRs – Special Edition – Buhle Xakalashe

Name: Buhle Sinaye Xakalashe

ESR 1: Carbothermic Reduction of Bauxite Residue for Iron Removal

Tell us a little about yourself?

I am Buhle Xakalashe from the sunny South Africa. I have a bachelor of engineering (Chemical engineering) degree from the University of Pretoria. I subsequently completed a master of science in engineering (materials technology) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Furthermore, I have industrial experience mainly from South Africa. I strongly believe in a link between industry and academia. I am currently enrolled at RWTH Aachen in Germany where I am undertaking a PhD with a focus on bauxite residue valorisation. Exploring the world is very close to my heart; on the same vein I have immense value for people.


How is your PhD going? What is your upcoming research about?

My PhD is at infancy, it is focused on iron recovery from bauxite residue (red mud) by pyrometallurgical means. Similar to some smelting processes both metal and slag are outputs of importance. Therefore, the process under investigation focuses on recovery of iron to a saleable product without compromising the slag quality since a fair share of valuable elements concentrate in the slag phase and serve as downstream feed. The success of this project together with the associated downstream processes could place bauxite residue well as a secondary resource.


What or who motivates and inspires you? Any thoughts and life musings you’d like to share with us?

I am unequivocally inspired when I witness deserving individuals or entities achieve great success.  Additionally, the charm of nature lights me up from the core. Working on a project such as this one is a motivation on its own; it’s an opportunity to contribute in a small way to a brighter future. A significant and appropriate reflection is that my interest in urban mining was stimulated by a project I worked on while I was a junior engineer back in South Africa, this particular project had its origins at RWTH Aachen. Fast forward, I am at RWTH Aachen doing my PhD on a related subject.


If a chicken had lips, could it whistle?

A close relative to a chicken, a parrot, also has no lips but can whistle beyond any one’s wildest imagination. I would say that it boils down to the will to achieving something that makes the difference. A catchy question of course seeing that the chicken doesn’t take first prize in flying despite having wings.