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2018 Ceramic Raw Materials Review: Bauxite and Alumina

Four domestic Bayer-process refineries had a combined alumina production capacity of 5.6 Mt per year but produced just 2.5 Mt in 2016; two of the refineries shut down during the year. About 70% of the alumina produced went to primary aluminum smelters; the remainder went to nonmetallurgical products such as abrasives, ceramics, chemicals and refractories. Global alumina production decreased slightly in 2016, to 118 Mt from 2015’s 119 Mt (see Table 1). Domestic alumina imports for consumption, exports and apparent consumption were all down significantly in 2016, by 23.6% (to 1.2 Mt), 31.2% (to 1.5 Mt), and 39.7% (to 2.4 Mt), respectively.

World alumina mine refinery and bauxite production, 2016 (thousand metric dry tons).*
Australia 20,700 82,000
Brazil 10,800 34,500
Canada 1,550 -
China 58,500 65,000
Greece 810 1,800
Guinea - 19,700
Guyana - 1,600
India 5,860 25,000
Indonesia 450 1,000
Ireland 1,900 -
Jamaica 1,850 8,500
Kazakhstan 1,400 4,600
Malaysia - 1,000
Russia 2,700 5,400
Saudi Arabia 1,700 4,000
Spain 1,550 -
Suriname - -
U.S. 2,500 W
Vietnam 500 1,500
Others 5,500 6,860
World total (rounded) 118,000 262,000

*estimated W=withheld (Source: U.S. Geological Survey, www.usgs.gov.)


The global activated alumina market is expected to reach $1.3 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4%, according to Grand View Research, Inc. Key end-use industries include water treatment, oil and gas, and medical.1

Persistence Market Research reports that global consumption of high-purity alumina reached 24,700 t in 2016. The value of the market was estimated at $1 million by the end of 2017 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 12.6% to reach $2.7 million by the end of 2025. In terms of volume, the market is projected to increase by a CAGR of 16.5% during the forecast period. High-purity alumina is a low-volume, high-value product that serves as a base material for the manufacture of sapphire substrates used in LEDs, scratch-resistant artificial sapphire glass and semiconductor wafers, among others. Robust growth for smaller applications, such as lithium-ion batteries, is also expected.2

The refractories industry represents one of the primary growth opportunities for the worldwide tabular alumina market, according to Technavio. The market is projected to expand at a CAGR of more than 7% by 2021. Vendors in the tabular alumina market are entering into consolidations and focusing on partnerships with end users to offer specialized products. Asia-Pacific is seen as a region that will offer high growth potential due to increasing manufacturing and industrialization activities in the oil and gas, refractories, and abrasives industries in India, China, and Japan. Market growth in the region will also benefit from economic development and growth in building and construction activities in China.3

Domestic consumption of bauxite declined by 28% in 2016 to 6.8 Mt, valued at $231 million. More than 90% of the bauxite was converted to alumina; the remainder went to nonmetallurgical products such as abrasives, chemicals, proppants and refractories. Domestic bauxite imports for consumption dropped dramatically (44.2%) to 6.3 Mt, while exports doubled to 40,000 t. Global bauxite production declined by 11% in 2016, primarily due to Malaysia’s reduction of 34 Mt (production was banned pending stricter environmental laws).

(Via: Media Partner of CERAMICS CHINA 2019, Ceramic Industry Magazine, https://www.ceramicindustry.com/articles/96787-raw-manufactured-materials-2018-overview)