How Aluminium is Made

Bauxite Mining Alumina Refining Semi-fabrication and Products Recycling Aluminium Smelting

Bauxite Mining

Bauxite is the primary ore from which aluminium metal is extracted.

Australia has the second largest reserves of bauxite in the world and is currently the world’s largest producer (96 Mt in 2018).

Once the bauxite is mined from the surface, the land is rehabilitated.

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Alumina Refining

Alumina refineries process bauxite ore to produce alumina, which is then used to extract aluminium metal.

Australia is the second largest producer of alumina in the world (20.3 Mt in 2018).

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Aluminium Smelting

Aluminium smelters use an electrolytic process to extract aluminium metal from alumina.

Australia is currently the sixth largest producer of primary aluminium (1.58 Mt in 2018).

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Semi Fabrication and Products

Aluminium can be formed into a variety of products by extruding, rolling or casting. Australian operators provide products to key sectors of the market, including the construction, automotive and packaging sectors.

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Recycling

Aluminium is infinitely recyclable without any loss of its unique properties. Aluminium scrap is of high value, which is a key incentive for recycling and is why nearly 75 per cent of aluminium ever produced is still in use today. Globally, aluminium recycling rates tend to be high in transport and construction, and around 70 per cent for beverage cans.

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Bauxite Mining

Bauxite in Australia is almost always found near the surface and is generally extracted using open cast (surface) mining. The processes involved include land clearing, removal of overburden where required, transport, and crushing. Inputs generally include energy in the form of transport fuels, electricity for crushers and conveyors, and water (for those mines which use beneficiation).

Alumina Refining

All Australian alumina refineries use the Bayer Process to extract alumina from bauxite. Inputs typically include caustic soda, energy in the form of gas or coal (to produce the required heat and steam for the process), flocculants (to assist the sedimentation process), and water (to recover the caustic soda for reuse).

Aluminium Smelting

Inputs into the primary aluminium smelting process include: alumina, cryolite (or bath – in which the alumina is dissolved at high temperature), coke and pitch (to form the anodes), refractory materials, graphitic cathodes, and electricity.

Semi Fabrication and Products

Downstream products and semi-fabrication use aluminium metal, energy and fuels.

Recycling Aluminium

Recycling uses both old and new scrap, as well as energy, although recycling uses only 5% of the energy it takes to produce primary aluminium.

Bauxite Mining

About two thirds of the bauxite mined in Australia is used locally to produce alumina. In 2018 approximately 35 Mt of Australia’s bauxite production was exported – valued at around $1.3 Billion.

Total production in 2018 was estimated to be 96 Mt.

Alumina Refining

Around 85 per cent of the alumina produced in Australia annually is exported to smelters around the world. In 2018, 17 Mt of alumina with a value of approximately $10.0 billion was exported.

Total production in 2018 was 20.3 Mt.

Aluminium Smelting

More than 90 per cent of Australia’s primary aluminium metal production is also exported. In 2018, 1.45 Mt of aluminium was exported valued at approximately $4.3 billion.

Total production in 2018 was 1.58 Mt.

Semi Fabrication and Products

No data

Recycling Aluminium

In 2018, 0.13 Mt of aluminium scrap was exported, valued at approximately $220 million.