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Aluminium Production: From Bauxite to Alumina

To obtain aluminium, one starts with bauxite ore from which an aluminium oxide, alumina, is extracted through a chemical process.


Bauxite, The Principal Aluminium Ore

Bauxite contains 40-60% hydrated aluminium oxide mixed with silica and iron oxide. It is the latter that gives bauxite its characteristic red colour.

The name "bauxite" comes from the village of Les Baux-de-Provence in Bouches-du-Rhône (France), where the mineralogist Pierre Berthier first analysed the ore in 1821.


The Main Known Bauxite Mining Reserves Worldwide

  • Central America : Jamaica, Guyana, Guyana, Suriname, Northern Brazil
  • Africa : The Gulf of Guinea and the surrounding area, including Guinea and Cameroon
  • Asia, Oceania : Australia, Indonesia, India

Aluminium Oxide, AKA Alumina

4 tons of bauxite are needed to obtain 2 tons of alumina, from which 1 ton of aluminium is extracted by electrolysis.

Features :

  • formula: Al2O3
  • Appearance: fine white powder
  • property: very hard, chemically inert and poorly conductive of electricity
  • molecular weight: 102

The Bayer Process

The industrial production process for alumina from bauxite was developed in 1887 by the chemist Karl-Josef Bayer (portrait opposite). It is still used today thanks to important improvements made over time.

The bauxite is crushed then mixed with soda at high temperature and under pressure. The solution obtained, sodium aluminate, is stripped of its impurities, then diluted and cooled, which causes the precipitation of hydrated aluminium oxide. The product of this process is then reduced to a powder to obtain the alumina intended for the production of aluminium.

The Next Steps In The Production Process...

Discover how we get from alumina to aluminium