How Is Aluminium Produced & Extracted?

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Aluminium Oxide

Aluminium in its original form is called Bauxite ore; this is because it was discovered by Pierre Berthier in the region of Les Baux in 1821. Aluminium is mostly found in the earth’s crust in large quantities. Aluminium is expensive because of the amount of electrolysis used in the extraction process.

Bauxite ores, once purified, produce aluminium oxide, which is a white powder that aluminium can be extracted. The extraction process is done by electrolysis because the ions in aluminium, once free electricity, can pass through. Aluminium oxide has a high melting point, making it a costly method.

Numerous minerals include aluminium around the world, but the most common raw material to obtain aluminium from is Bauxite.

Bauxite Ores are usually red or brown, depending on the iron oxide. When the iron content is low, the bauxite ore is usually white or grey. But Bauxite ores can take various colour changes from yellow, dark green and multicoloured.

Aluminium is the most common metal and one of the most recyclable. When aluminium is being recycled, it doesn’t lose any of its properties. Therefore, it can be recycled again and again. That’s why many big drink companies use aluminium for their canned drinks as it’s an easier process, rather than using a non-sustainable material.

Largest Producer For Aluminium

China Hongqiao is currently the largest aluminium smelter and producer, with a combined annual capacity of up to 3.61 million tonnes. In 2010 production of aluminium was 16 million metric tonnes to 2019, which is now 36 million tonnes.

Russia Moscow is ranked as the second world’s largest aluminium producer with 3.6 million tonnes of aluminium being produced; this is lower than China. In Moscow, aluminium production is dominated by RUSAL, which is the largest producer in Moscow. During 2013 RUSAL and SAUL merge, grossing tonnes of aluminium.

Largest Aluminium Suppliers In The World

1 – China – 36,000

2 – India – 3,700

3 – Russia – 3,600

4 – Canada – 2,900

5 – UAE – 2,700

How Is Aluminium Produced?

  1. As previously mentioned, Bauxite is a raw material and is usually found in clay-like soil. Throughout the years, Aluminium production has been most common in Queensland, Australia or throughout Northern Territory. Australia is the worlds largest producer of Bauxite with 20% OF GLOBAL Alumina and 30% of global Bauxite.

Queensland Alumina Limited is one of the largest Alumina suppliers. They first started production in 1967 with Australia’s first Alumina refinery, then have gone on to produce 3.80 million tons of the world’s best Alumina. They ship to many of the big Aluminium producers like China, Russia, UAE and many more.

Resource – https://www.qal.com.au/who-we-are.aspx

  1. Once Alumina has been extracted from Bauxite through refining. The Alumina is then separated from the Bauxite by a hot solution of Caustic Soda and Lime. The Alumina mixture is then heated and filtered, and the remaining Alumina is dried to white powder. Once this has taken place, the Alumina is transported by ship to be specially designed in the port of Newcastle before being made into Aluminium metal.
  2. Once at the Aluminium plant, three different raw materials that are needed to make aluminium; Alumina, Electricity and Carbon. Aluminium production takes place through three enormous Potlines, which are normally on-site for many large aluminium suppliers and producers. The electricity is then supplied to the pots, and as the current flows, go onto the next pot and so on. The electricity reacts with the anodes, causing the Alumina to separate into their own elements (Aluminium and Oxygen).

The liquid aluminium is then siphoned from the pots through a method called tapping. Once this has taken place, the liquid metal is taken to the casthouse in ladles located on the top of specially designed vehicles.

  1. Then at the Casthouse, any impurities are removed, and alloying elements like silicon and magnesium are added. Also, properties like strength, corrosion resistance and surface qualities are added to the final chemical composition.
  2. The liquid aluminium is then cast into sheet ingots, extrusion ingots or foundry alloys.

Key – Aluminium Ore = Bauxite

Alumina = Contains Aluminium compound

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