The increasing demand for aluminum is being spurred by heightened global calls for sustainable products and by movements against the use of plastic materials. As a result, the mining industry has to respond to the correlated rapid increase in demand for bauxite ore.
When it comes to mining for bauxite ores, the mining industry has no qualms because bauxite is an element that can be typically extracted from topsoil found in different tropical and subtropical regions. Bauxite reserves are reported as abundant and projected to last for several centuries across Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America.
Moreover, bauxite ore is strip-mined, which is regarded as an environmentally responsible method of acquiring minerals, when after removing a long stretch of overlying soil and rock, a large percentage of the topsoil is stored and restored to allow for rehabilitation of the mining site. In bauxite ore mining, an average of eighty percent (80%) of the topsoil removed is typically returned to its native location.
In addition, the metallic element aluminum can also be extracted from earth materials containing chemical compounds comprised by other elements such as oxygen, silicon and sul[hur.
However, the main criticism to the widespread use of aluminum is the amount of energy required for its manufacture. It takes about an average of 15 kilowatt-hours of energy to produce one (1) kilogram of aluminum.
On the average, about one third of the cost of electricity is utilized during the process of smelting. This denotes that the refinement of bauxite ore, being the initial stage in which alumina or aluminum oxide is obtained, utilizes two-thirds of the energy used in the manufacture of aluminum.
Nonetheless, the key takeaway about aluminum is the sustainability of the material produced once they take form as flat-rolled metal.
Aluminum Comes to the Fore as the Sustainable Choice of Metal
The properties of flat rolled aluminum has made it the sustainable choice of metal in responding to the global calls for sustainable products.
Aluminum metal is found useful in a broad range of applications, because it is lightweight and workable; yet strong, non-toxic and non magnetic. It can easily conduct heat and electricity as well as reflect light, and at the same time has the ability to keep its strength under extreme cold.
Most important of all is that aluminum metal quickly oxidizes, which in the process forms an invisible barrier against corrosive elements. Based on all those properties, aluminum metal is the most economical discarded material when reused, repurposed and recycled. Mainly because aluminum metal is strong but easily workable, and it retains its strength under extreme cold without becoming brittle.
Recently in an interview for LME Week, the SVP of Novelis, Emilio Braghs, underscored the rising demand for aluminum metal. As more and more consumers are turning away from products that come in single-use plastic containers, aluminum cans and packages are now considered as sustainable alternatives to the former.
Recycled aluminium cans can save as much as 95% of the energy needed to make a new one. Moreover, aluminum does not lose its sustainable properties even if recycled infinitely.
Mr. Bragh who is also the President of Novelis Europe, said that the current trend in the automotive industry is geared toward the manufacture of electric cars, which is another driver to the increasing demand for flat-rolled metal products.