• Biodiversity

    Restoring pre-mining biodiversity requires areas to be protected from erosion and for the original topsoil to be managed to retain its value as a seed source and growing medium. | Learn more

  • Community Engagement

    Mining companies recognise the value of local knowledge and that by encouraging empowerment and building relationships there can be long-term sustainable outcomes for all parties… | Learn more
  • Responsible Sourcing

    A sustainable mining operation maintains the natural capital of the area in which it is located through sound environmental management systems. | Learn more

  • Water Management

    The International Aluminium Institute (IAI) collects data on fresh water use, consumption and water stress indicators to track the industry’s impact on water resources. | Learn more

  • Energy Efficiency

    Globally, and despite declining ore quality, the alumina refining industry reduced the energy intensity of its operations by 9% between 2006 and 2010, while increasing production by 15%. | Learn more

  • Health & Wellbeing

    A healthy community means healthy families, which means a more safe and motivated workforce; thus there is a direct link between community health and the productivity of a mining or refining operation. | Learn more

  • Mining Process

    The aluminium-containing bauxite ores gibbsite, böhmite and diaspore are the basic raw material for primary aluminium production. | Learn more

  • Refining Process

    The Bayer Process was invented and patented in 1887 by Austrian scientist Karl Josef Bayer. Two to three tonnes of bauxite are required to produce one tonne of alumina. | Learn more

  • Bauxite Residue Management

    The industry is constantly working on new residue treatment methods to increase the removal of alkaline fluids and salts. | Learn more

  • Employment & Education

    Bauxite miners are investing in to provide social and economic benefits to the communities in which they operate. | Learn more

  • Sustainable Development​

    At the heart of every bauxite mining and refining operation lie local communities, comprising the workforce and their families (often across multiple generations)… | Learn more

  • Mine Rehabilitation

    Globally, bauxite mining disturbs a relatively small area of land compared to other types of open cast mining. Around one square metre of land is newly opened up each year… | Learn more

Mining and Refining

Where does primary aluminium come from?

It’s a three-step process: First, mining: a sedimentary rock called bauxite, which has a high aluminium content, is extracted from the ground. Second, refining: the bauxite is processed into aluminium oxide (known as alumina). Third, smelting: alumina is reduced by electrolysis to produce pure aluminium.  

Bauxite was discovered in southern France in 1821. Now, over 200 years later, bauxite mining is concentrated in Guinea, Australia, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and India, with several other countries making up the balance. 

Increasingly sustainable bauxite mining is a key objective for the aluminium industry, and the challenges are unique to each mine and region.  

From responsible sourcing to biodiversity, and from community engagement to energy efficiency, explore these pages to understand the Mining & Refining process and why sustainability and community are at its heart.  

Mining & Refining facts

1 | Sustainable mining

Sustainable mining operations protect, restore, and rehabilitate the biodiversity and ecosystem of the areas in which they are located.

2 | Reduced energy
The energy intensity of alumina production has been reduced by almost 20% since 2006.
3 | Community support
On average each mining operation invests over US$ 400,000 in support of community programmes.

Primary Production

Turning energy into Aluminium