All of us are well aware that China has added the Alumina refinery capacities at faster pace during last decade though they have the limitation of quality bauxite for processing at economic level. Chinese bauxite is poor in quality as it has diasporic alumina coupled with very high reactive silica.
It will be prudent to mention here that diasporic alumina extraction is highly energy intensive and high reactive silica in bauxite causes higher Caustic soda consumption for alumina production. Also, the mining cost of bauxite in China is comparatively higher compared to other countries. Thus, imported bauxite from neighboring countries is mixed with locally mined bauxite before processing in plants. Following details will make the elaboration easy for understanding.
Current production cost of calcined alumina in China is ranging from US$320 to US$380 per tonne of calcined alumina. The broad break up of cost components are outlined below-
- Bauxite : US$90 to US$170 per tonne of alumina
- Caustic : US$50 to US$60 per tonne of alumina
- Energy : US$140 to US$180 per tonne of alumina
- Others : Us$50 to US$60 per tonne of alumina.
Among Chinese Alumina refineries, Guangxi Alumina Plant has the lowest production cost at around US$320 per tonne of calcined alumina. However, production cost at Shandong Alumina Plant in China works out to around US$380 per tonne of calcined alumina.
The data published data clearly reveal that Indonesia had been the largest exporter of bauxite to China. In the year 2012, Indonesia exported over 36 million tonnes of bauxite to China where as the balance bauxite of about 9 million tonnes was exported by Australia, India and other countries.
Now, Indonesian Government has increased the export tax from 20% in 2012 to 50% in 2013-14. Also, the government has announced complete ban on export of bauxite from 2014 onward as they have decided to preserve their natural resources for the existing and upcoming Alumina plants in their country.
Looking at the above scenario, it has become a very serious issue for China to keep their plants operative in years to come. Presently, China is consuming its total domestic alumina in their own Aluminium smelters for production of aluminium metal.
In present crisis of bauxite availability from Indonesia, China is exploring the possibility to import bauxite from Guinea. But higher transportation cost of bauxite from Guinea will make the production cost further higher for production of calcined alumina in China.
We have assimilated the above information based on the published literature available on public domain in the interest of our friends of bauxite-alumina-aluminium fraternity across the globe.
We solicit your comments / remarks, if any.