Commercial aluminium ore, commonly known as bauxite, contains alumina content ranging between 31-52%. Bauxite is largely found across tropical and sub-tropical regions of West Indies, Africa, Asia- Pacific and South America. Globally, Australia is the largest producer and exporter of bauxite accounting for about one-fourth of the global bauxite production. Generally, bauxite extraction involves five stages including bauxite area preparation, mining, crushing, transportation of ore and land rehabilitation. Typically, bauxite mining involves comparatively small land operation which can be operated for long period of time with an average lifespan of 35 years.
About 85% of global mined bauxite is converted to alumina using Bayer’s refining process from which aluminium metal is obtained by smelting. Bauxite is also used in non-metallurgical applications such as refractories and abrasives with automobile being the largest end consumer of aluminium. With increase in consumption of aluminium in automobile sector due to its high-density, corrosion-free and lightweight properties, bauxite mining is expected to grow in coming years. Consequently, bauxite mining companies are employing advanced technologies to improve overall extraction productivity.
Global bauxite mining industry is highly consolidated with top ten players capturing majority of the market. Bauxite mining companies are currently adopting advanced techniques in order to shift towards sustainable bauxite extraction. As a part of sustainable development, miners and other companies are designing programs to rehabilitate the land owners.
Aluminium recycling market is gaining traction owing to significant energy saving and lower recycling cost as compared to production of primary aluminium from bauxite ores. Aluminium recycling emits lesser greenhouse gases with utilisation of 95% less energy as compared to primary aluminium manufacturing. Consequently, growing aluminium recycling may restrain growth of bauxite mining in near future.
Geographically, North America controls the largest share of bauxite mining followed by Europe and Asia Pacific. Of these regions, Asia Pacific is expected to witness highest growth owing to growing demand from automobile industry in countries like India, China and Japan.
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