Peak group seeks to cast aluminium as critical mineral

THE new president of the Australian Aluminium Council is calling on the federal government to recognise bauxite, alumina and aluminium as critical minerals in Australia, to help maintain its world-leading role in the supply chain.
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Aluminium is important in virtually all segments of the world economy.

Haydn Black


Mike Ferraro, who is also managing director of Alumina in his day job, said the government should follow the lead of the US, which included aluminium in its most recent list of 50 critical metals 12 months ago.
"Aluminium is, and will continue to be, one of the most widely used commodities in the global clean energy transition. To capitalise on the nation's abundance of these commodities and to position Australia as a supplier of choice, they need to be recognised as critical minerals," Ferraro said.
The AAC said it was disappointed at Australia's "very narrow definition of critical minerals" which is limited largely to rare earths and new materials, including high purity alumina, and excludes several resources the nation already produces, such as copper and nickel.
Ferraro said Australia should align itself with the US, Canada and Europe, and the lead of the World Bank and the International Energy Agency, and position itself to capture the growing need for bauxite, alumina and aluminium in the clean energy transition.
"It is an opportunity the nation cannot afford to miss," he said.
Australia started producing aluminium in 1955 and is now the world's largest producer of raw bauxite, the largest producer of alumina outside of China, and the world's seventh largest aluminium producer, generating around $17 billion per annum.
The industry plays a role in the full value chain, from mining to refining, producing around 100 million tonnes of bauxite and 20Mt of alumina, but it could very easily lose its status to rivals such as Guinea, which may lack Australia's ESG credentials.
While refining is energy intensive, the council says there is a potentially huge advantage in exploring cleaner energy to reduce emissions and to help ensure Australia remains a leading producer.
If Canberra adds aluminium to the critical minerals list it would help better align policy leavers, such as taxpayer funding and other grants, to help revive Australia's mine-to-market value chain and global leadership in sustainable bauxite mining into the next decade,  when Australia is expected to have an energy advantage once again.
Recognition could also help develop downstream products such as HPA and aluminium fluoride, the latter of which is an essential product in smelting and must be imported, although ASX-listed ABx is planning to build a domestic plant in Tasmania.
Australia's key bauxite mines are in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, with most refineries in the eastern states.
Aluminum is the second most abundant metallic element in the Earth's crust.