Aluminium Ore Bauxite in Africa

Africa leading the Way with Bauxite Production

Bauxite is an aluminium ore. It is known for being the main source of aluminium in the world. Bauxite was first discovered by a French geologist called Pierre Bertheir in 1821 in Provence in the South of France in Les Baux village. The French chemist Henri Sainte-Claire Deville gave the mineral the name ‘bauxite’ in 1861. Although aluminium is in high demand around the world, there are enough known bauxite reserves to meet the global demands for several centuries. An increase in aluminium recycling is also drastically extending the lifespan of the aluminium reserves around the world.

Processing Bauxite

Bauxite OreBecause it is usually found near the surface Bauxite is almost always easily strip mined. Over 70% of the dry bauxite production around the globe is first processed in to alumina, and then into aluminium through a process of electrolysis. The general classification of bauxite ore is based on the commercial application it is intended for. Applications include abrasive, metallurgical, cement, refractory and chemical. The ore is heated in a pressurised chamber at a high temperature of around 200°C and the aluminium is dissolved and then extracted. It is then cooled and seeded before being converted into aluminium oxide which is dissolved at a very high temperature of around 960°C. With further electrolysis aluminium is produced. Before this lengthy, but very effective process was invented in 1886, elemental aluminium was made by heating ore with potassium or elemental sodium in a vacuum – an expensive and complicated method which made aluminium very expensive – during that time aluminium was even more expensive than gold.

Where Bauxite is Mined

Africa is home to some of the world’s largest resources of bauxite. It is predominantly mined in Ghana, Guinea and Mozambique, with Guinea being the biggest producer of bauxite on the African continent. Other notable Aluminium producing countries include Egypt, Cameroon, and South Africa. The world’s biggest mining companies include MBendi, Alcan’t, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and the Alumina Company of Guinea (ACG) top the list with bauxite mining, production and processing.

Top Countries for Bauxite Production

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Guinea ranks at #5 for world production of bauxite by country at 15,600 (x1000 metric tonnes). In terms of sheer metric tonnage, Australia tops the list at 65,231 (x1000 metric tonnes), China weighs in at second place with 40,000 (x1000 metric tonnes), Brazil comes in third at 28,200 (x1000 metric tonnes) and India comes in fourth at 16,000 (x1000 metric tonnes).

Bauxite in Africa

Guinea is a West African country that is rich in bauxite. While the country lacks industries to transform the resource-rich rock into a precious metal, new laws are being enacted to protect the country’s resources and share the profits with the people. According to law, 30% of profits from the mines will be collected by the state and disbursed to the people of the region. There are some complications in effect, and the government of Guinea is in negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank as to how to tax these offshore companies in the most efficient manner.

Major Bauxite Expansion Set for Southern Africa

Just recently, Nigerian Aluminium manufacturer, GZ Industries announced plans to establish a R1 billion Aluminium manufacturing plant in South Africa. It will team up with the South African giant – Golden Era Group – which is involved in the packaging industry. Production will commence in Q2, 2016 with a capacity of 1.2 billion beverage cans. This is a brand-new market which is being tapped in southern Africa and it will expand by a multiple of 3.5 per annum until the company has fully completed expansion into the Southern African market.