Bauxite

This information has not been updated since 2010 and is provided for general reference purposes. For more detailed information and for the latest data, please see the Australia's Identified Mineral Resources bauxite chapter.

Australia has substantial aluminium resources in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The primary mineral resource which hosts aluminium is known as bauxite, named after the Baux locality in France where it was first identified.

Bauxite is a heterogeneous naturally occurring material from which alumina (Al2O3) and aluminium metal are produced. The principal minerals in bauxite are gibbsite (Al2O3.3H2O), boehmite (Al2O3.H2O) and diaspore, which has the same composition as boehmite, but is denser and harder.

Bauxite Uses

Globally, most bauxite mined is converted to alumina for the production of aluminium metal. A minor proportion goes to non-metal uses in various forms of specialty alumina while the remainder is used for non-metallurgical bauxite applications.

Aluminium is a product of increasing importance for manufacturing because of its light weight, strength and durability as well as its capacity to be recycled. On a life cycle assessment basis, the high strength to weight ratio of aluminium results in significant fuel savings, particularly where substitution can be made for heavier construction materials.

Bauxite Production and Exports

Australia is the world's largest producer of bauxite and a significant global supplier of high value downstream products, including refined alumina and smelted aluminium metal. The industry is a highly integrated sector of mining, refining, smelting and semi-fabrication centres and is of major economic importance nationally and globally. The bulk of production is from five major bauxite mines, seven alumina refineries, six primary aluminium smelters, 12 extrusion mills and two rolled product (sheet, plate and foil) mills. The Australian industry is geared to serve world demand for alumina and aluminium with more than 80 per cent of production exported. Information on Australia's mineral production and exports is given in Australia's Mineral Statistics and Australian Commodities produced quarterly by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Bauxite Resources

The long-term future of Australias aluminium industry is underpinned by vast resources of bauxite located in the Weipa and Gove regions adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and the Northern  Territory respectively, and in the Darling Range south of Perth in Western Australia. Deposits in these regions rank among the worlds largest identified resources in terms of extractable alumina content. The undeveloped bauxite deposits at Mitchell Plateau and Cape Bougainville in northern Western Australia are not currently economic to develop, but are a significant potential future resource.

Approximately 44 per cent of Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR) comprises Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code ore reserves as reported by industry. The remaining represents resources assessed by Geoscience Australia as being economically recoverable from measured and indicated categories of mineral resources, as defined under the JORC Code and other classification systems used by companies not listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The surface expression of bauxite and confidence in lateral continuity of thickness and grade make it possible in certain terrains to classify some inferred resources as EDR.

Based on United States Geological Survey (USGS) data for other countries, Australias demonstrated bauxite resources rank second in the world after the Republic of Guinea and ahead of Vietnam, Brazil, Jamaica and China.

Bauxite Exploration and Discovery

The expansion of Australian bauxite, alumina and aluminium production in the past few years reflects high demand for the commodities and significant investments are being undertaken in prospective projects. Along with the well developed production areas around Weipa, Gove and the Darling Range, bauxite occurrences on the Mitchell Plateau and Cape Bougainville areas of Western Australia, Cape York in Queensland and in central New South Wales maintained commercial exploration and development interest in the sector.

Highlights of mineral exploration, including bauxite, are reviewed annually in Australia's Mineral Exploration Review and Australia's Identified Mineral Resources.