Bauxite mining

Aluminium production begins with bauxite, the “aluminium ore”. Most bauxite is mined in tropical areas, with around 50km2 of new land mined each year. At the same time, a matching area of land is restored to nature.

Did you know?

The name “Bauxite” comes from “Baux-de-Provence”, the French village where the mineral was first discovered in 1821.

Alumina production

Pure aluminium oxide, called alumina, is extracted from bauxite via a process called refining, composed of two steps: a digestion process, using caustic soda, which allows the separation of aluminium hydroxide from the so-called “bauxite residue”, followed by a calcination step which removes the water content in the hydroxide.

Both the aluminium hydroxide and the aluminium oxide have further applications outside of the metal industry.

Making metal: Primary aluminium production

Molten aluminium is extracted from the alumina through an electrolytic process called smelting, which breaks the strong chemical bond of the aluminium and oxygen atoms using a powerful electric current. Once the liquid metal is collected it is transferred in the casthouse, where it is purified, alloyed to specification and then cast into ingots.

Did you know?

The energy required to smelt aluminium has fallen by 10% between 1990 and 2010. A further reduction of 5% is expected by 2020.

Using Aluminium

The primary aluminium is cast into ingots and used in the production of aluminium alloys. Aluminium can be rolled into sheets from which aluminium foil and beverage cans are made, as well as parts of car bodies and a vast array or other products. Using the forming process of extrusion, the aluminium is shaped in its required form and delivers almost unlimited possibilities in product design.

Did you know?

1 billion tonnes of aluminium have been produced since 1886 and ¾ of that metal is still in use today.


Aluminium can be recycled endlessly without loss of its properties, and this makes it a key contributor to a more resource-efficient European economy.

The current end-of-life recycling rates of more than 90% in transport and construction and more than 60% in packaging show a clear commitment from European aluminium industry towards a real circular economy, and we are working with policymakers to make sure that as much aluminium as possible is recovered and recycled in Europe.

Back to top