Bauxite Basics

  Next

History

Bauxite is the primary mineral for alumina and thus ultimately aluminium production. It is named after the town of Les Beaux in southern France, where the chemist Berthier first recognised it in 1821.

Occurrence

Bauxite is widely distributed around the world, particularly in tropical areas. It is formed by weathering of aluminium rich rocks (clays, laterites, etc.) and the major deposits are therefore generally close to the surface.

Reserve

World reserves of bauxite total 29 billion tonnes, with Guinea, Australia, Brazil, Vietnam and Jamaica holding over 70% of this figure.

Production and Trade

In 2013 it is estimated over 260 million tonnes of bauxite will be produced with 95 million tonnes being traded around the globe. China is the largest importer at ~65 million tonnes.

Outlook

Increased demand for bauxite is set to continue as aluminium use in developing countries is well below that typical of more developed economies.

Physical Form

Bauxite takes many physical forms including small red peas, red-yellow “soils”, and large, pale, hard stones.

How to define an orebody

The main criterion for identification of an ore body as bauxite is that it should contain aluminium in the form of aluminium hydroxides, the minimum content being about 30%(measured as Al2O3).

Bauxite - alumina

Typically between two and three tonnes of bauxite must be refined to produce one tonne of alumina.

Waste from the refining process, so called “red mud”, is stored in large dams designed to prevent leakage of, and environmental damage from, the still highly caustic contents.

Typical Ore Pictures from Major Countries

Weipa bauxite (Source: http://aluminium.org.au/australian-bauxite/bauxite-weipa)

Chinese bauxite (Source: CMGroup)

Indonesia Ore (Source: CMGroup)

Text Source: World Bauxite Resources, USGS ; CMGroup