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“Bauxite reserves are estimated to be 50 to 70 billion metric tons and are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Oceania, Asia and South America. Australia, a part of Oceania continent, is the largest producer of bauxite, followed by China, with five active bauxite mines in the world.”
Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust indeed. Aluminum and its alloys are widely used in several applications including domestic appliances, electrical conductors, automobile, building construction, defense, aero scope industry, and others. Bauxite, being the only ore used for the production of aluminum in the world, plays an important role in providing significant growth to the aluminum industry. Bauxite is a sedimentary rock that also consists of silica, iron oxide, and titanium dioxide.
Bauxite reserves are estimated to be 50 to 70 billion metric tons and are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Oceania, Asia, and South America. Australia, a part of the Oceania continent, is the largest producer of bauxite, followed by China, with five active bauxite mines in the world.
Bauxite mining process:-
Alike other metals, bauxite usually does not need complex processing. During the extraction process, bauxite ore is heated at a temperature of 150 degrees Celsius to 200 degrees Celsius in a pressure container along with a sodium hydroxide solution. Gibbsite, boehmite, and diaspore are the few popular forms that contain aluminum bauxite ores used for aluminum production. Gibbsite is aluminum hydroxide (AI(OH)3). Both boehmite and diaspore are aluminum oxide hydroxide (AIO(OH)) and possess a different crystalline structure than gibbsite.
Key producers take on bauxite mining:-
Moreover, the recent discovery of bauxite along the eastern coastal region of India has made the country a prime location for the growth and development of the aluminum industry. Right now, India is holding the fourth position in the world with regards to bauxite reserves and has good quality metallurgical grade bauxite deposits with nearly four billion tons reserves. But, unfortunately, these rich bauxite deposits are still untapped and the country is planning to leverage this natural wealth for economic growth purposes. Also, the consumption rate of aluminum in India is likely to get doubled over the coming five years.
Furthermore, the bauxite sector of Australia is going to maintain a slow and steady output growth in the approaching time. Australia is currently holding the largest portion i.e. twelve of the thirty-two new bauxite projects in Fitch’s major Mines Projects Database. Also, Guinea, one of the world’s largest proven reserves of bauxite, is going to expand its production this year.
Environmental impact of bauxite mining:-
The entire process of converting raw bauxite into aluminum is tremendously energy-intensive, thus the smelting process cause emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, perfluorocarbons, sodium fluoride, sulfur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, and others. During the extraction process, the strip mining technique removes all native vegetation in the mining field, which results in soil erosion and a loss of habitat for local wildlife.
Therefore, in order to overcome this problem, more than half of the mine operators have agreed with stakeholders on final land use for the rehabilitated regions. Stakeholders such as landowners, federal, state, and municipal government agencies, local communities, and NGOs are having an interest in conservation. Multiple plots have been established to monitor and report the ecological growth and development of rehabilitated areas.
Current market scenario and the impact of COVID-19 on bauxite mining:-
According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global bauxite mining market size is anticipated to grow significantly in the coming years. Aluminum possesses a lot of properties such as high density, high flexibility, high strength, lightweight, corrosion resistance, and others. These superior properties have fueled the demand for aluminum in the end-use industries. Nowadays, aluminum is widely used to manufacture lightweight vehicle parts and to produce building cement. With the growing demand for aluminum products across the globe, bauxite mining activities are increasing to a great extent, which in turn, is boosting the market in more than one way.
In addition, few bauxite miners are doing huge investments in order to provide social and economic benefits to local, regional and global communities. They aim to benefit the future generation by ensuring that the wealth generated through mining is distributed among the communities.
However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had led to worldwide lockdown, which gave way to several restrictions and temporary closure to bauxite mining industries. This in turn, had hampered the production system to some extent, especially in the initial period of the lockdown. Also, due to disruptions in the entire supply chain, the global manufacturers had faced immense failure in interstate and international transportation of aluminum products. This way, the bauxite miners received a significant reduction in demand for aluminum in the end-use industries, which sequentially, affected the financial situation of the market.
Nevertheless, the prominent players of the global bauxite mining market like Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd., Tata Steel Europe Ltd., Tajik Aluminum Company, Australian Bauxite Ltd, and others are continuously trying to adopt new strategies such as collaborations, mergers, joint ventures, acquisitions, and the others. The global manufacturer is operating mines in collaboration with other major players in order to stay competitive in the market. Rather than supplying the raw material i.e. Bauxite, companies, and governments in certain regions are exporting semi-finished or finished goods i.e. alumina or aluminum directly to end-user. With this drift on board, the global bauxite mining market is expected to witness huge prospects and exponential growth in the near future.
Author’s Bio – Suchita Gupta is an explorer, musician, and content writer. While pursuing MBA, she found that nothing satisfies her more than writing on miscellaneous domains. She is a writer by day, and a reader by night. Instagram.