About bauxite, alumina and aluminium in Australia
Australia is a dominant exporter in the international bauxite and alumina market and a significant producer in the global aluminium trade.
Bauxite is a naturally-occurring ore from which alumina and aluminium are produced.
Australia is the world's largest producer of bauxite, with five mines in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. In 2010–11 Australia exported 69 million tonnes of bauxite worth around $229 million in exports.
Alumina is extracted from bauxite, most of which is then used to produce aluminium. Australia has seven alumina refineries in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. In 2010–11 Australia produced 16 277 kt of alumina, worth over $5 billion, with the majority being exported.
Aluminium is smelted from alumina and has a wide range of uses including:
- building and construction
- heating and ventilation
- electrical and communications infrastructure.
Aluminium smelting requires significant amounts of electricity and smelters tend to be collocated with electricity generation. Australia's operating aluminium smelters are located in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria.
In 2010–11, Australia produced 1938 kt of aluminium creating exports of $4.1 billion.
Australia's aluminium industry is a highly-integrated sector of mining, refining, smelting and semi-fabrication centres, and is of major economic importance nationally and globally. Approximately 16 700 Australians were employed in bauxite extraction and alumina and aluminium production in 2010 (source: Australia Aluminium Council).
The aluminium industry is highly vertically integrated and characterised by large firms with international operations operating in the mining of bauxite, extraction of alumina and refining of aluminium. Considerable industry consolidation has taken place over recent years. All of the six leading global aluminium companies (RUSAL, Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan, BHP Billiton, CHALCO) have aluminium interests in Australia.
Electricity is a major input to the aluminium production process, accounting for between 25–30 per cent of total operating costs. The industry is highly sensitive to electricity prices and has a significant interest in the development of Australian policy on greenhouse abatement measures.
The aluminium industry is also one of the sectors represented amongst the eight task forces of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP).
For more information about minerals in Australia, see Australian Mineral Commodities.
Information about the APP can be found at the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate page.
Please note that all statistics are from the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics (BREE) publication, Resources and Energy Quarterly, March Quarter 2012, unless stated otherwise.