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About aluminium > The Production Process

Aluminum can be produced in two ways: production of primary aluminum from aluminum ore and from the recycling of aluminum products. Primary aluminum production consists of three stages: contamination of bauxite, production of alumina and electrolysis.

Aluminum is produced from ore (primary aluminum), and scrap (recycled aluminum). In 2006 global aluminum production was 60.4 million tons - 34 million tons of primary metal and 16.4 million tons of recycled metal.

Aluminum ore or most commonly bauxite, is plentiful and occurs mainly in tropical and subtropical regions - Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia - with some deposits in Europe.

Bauxite is mined and then refined into aluminum oxide trihydrate (alumina) through the Bayer process, which has changed little since it opened its first factory, with more than 100 years ago.

Alumina is then electrolytically reduced through a process of melting into metallic aluminum.

Primary aluminum smelting centres are all over the world, however, because is an energy-intensive process, they are often in areas where there are abundant amounts of cheap energy such as hydroelectric power.

Once it is formed aluminum is alloyed with other materials to make a number of metals with different properties and can be processed in many ways - rolled, molded, extruded.

It is used in many products and applications and can be recycled repeatedly.

Two to three tons of bauxite are needed to produce one ton of alumina and two tons of alumina are needed to produce one ton of aluminum metal.

Source: The International Aluminum Institute (read more)

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