Posted by kiranwali31
Bauxite ore accounts for about 8% of the earth’s crust and is actually relatively easy to mine. Bauxite ore, through a somewhat more complicated and energy intensive production process, yields aluminum oxide or alumina. The Hall-Heroult process, patented in 1886, is the most commonly used process.
Where is the Energy?
The largest reserves of Bauxite are found in New Guinea, with 27% of the world’s reserves, followed by Australia, which hold’s 23% of the world’s total reserves. The next ten countries make up about 30% of the world’s reserves, and the remaining 20% of bauxite ore is scattered around the world in amounts of less than .01% of total reserves.
In 2000, almost 30% of the world’s global alumina supply came from Australia. However, the number 2 country in terms of alumina production was a bit less expected. China produced 8% of the world’s supply of alumina.
However, over the next decade, while Australia remained relatively steady in terms of representing total world output of alumina at 26% in 2009, China jumped ahead to become the number one producer of alumina in the world at over 30%.
Not surprisingly, Brazil and India also increased their production of alumina while countries such as the U.S.A., Russia, and even Jamaica (third in bauxite ore reserves) decreased their production of alumina.
In spite of this drastic 450% increase in China, the country still fails to meet its aluminum requirements and faced an alumina deficit every year.
Why the shift in Alumina production?
While mining bauxite ore is relatively simple, the production process is very energy intensive. Thus, production processes have been moving from more developed markets in Europe to developing markets such as India and Brazil where labor and energy can be cheaper.
The importance of recycling
Nearly 30-35% of global aluminum demand can be met through recycling. It is cheaper and much more sustainable than having to process bauxite into alumina and then aluminum. Recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy of producing brand new aluminum, and 1kg of recyclables can save 8 kg of bauxite.
Aluminum Demand as an Indicator
Because of the various applications of aluminum, often aluminum demand can be an early indicator of the health of an economy.