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The Global Aluminum Industry

It makes sense that aluminum is one of the most common elements in our planet, as aluminum is prevalent in nearly everything we use. We drink from aluminum cans, and use foil to protect and cook foods. We used the finished product for containers, transportation, and medical uses. Every day, people around the world come into contact with this product in some way, and because of its malleable and conductive properties it’s possible to see greater innovations imagined for the future.


Quick Facts About the Aluminum Industry

  • According to the Aluminum Association, the supply in the United States alone totaled almost 25 billion pounds. This includes newly produced aluminum and recycled materials.
  • As one of the planet’s most common elements, aluminum is a highly sought material used in construction, for household purposes, and for military.
  • Aluminum production is prevalent on all major continents, with about 44,0000 metric tonnes produced in 2011. (Source: The International Aluminum Institute)
  • Aluminum comes from bauxite, an ore that is processed to separate aluminum oxide from iron oxide. Alumina, extracted from aluminum oxide, is the primary ingredient in creating the aluminum we use.

Top Producers/Exporters of Aluminum

According to the United States Geological Survey, the following countries lead the world in production:

  • China – China’s production for the last few years totaled almost half the global output. In addition to being a large producer, China is also one of the top importers due to growing demand.
  • The United States – The US industry currently focuses on energy efficiency in order to compete in the world market.
  • Russia – Russia is home to RUSAL, the largest aluminum company in the world. RUSAL has interests throughout Eastern Europe and parts of Africa.
  • Canada – After Russia, Canada is the second largest exporter of product, with the United States its largest trade partner.
  • Australia – The Australian industry enjoyed fast growth over the last century, thanks in part to large bauxite deposits.

Challenges in the Aluminum Industry

Early in 2012, The Motley Fool reported various concerns in the aluminum industry, noting in particular how some of the top aluminum companies like Alcoa did not surpass revenues from the previous year. An excess of supply can threaten future production, as it appears that manufacturers have more than is needed for projects, forcing some companies to cut production. One silver lining in this situation lies with China, which currently experiences a growing demand for this product.

One advantage to excess supply, however, could help improve various industries. Because aluminum is lighter than other metals, use in automotive manufacturing could help reduce car emissions and increase fuel efficiency. As consumers become more environmentally and socially conscious, aluminum production and usage stands to play a larger role in industry in the future.  

by Kathryn Lively


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