Australia’s bauxite production is seen growing over the next few years thanks to expansion plans by Rio Tinto and Alcoa, allowing it to remain the world’s largest producer, according to Fitch Solutions.
Rio Tinto is the largest bauxite producer in Australia and reported production of 54.3 million tonnes (mnt) from all its mines for 2021, down 3 per cent from the previous year primarily due to the severe wet weather.
Alcoa’s bauxite production in the 2021 financial year fell by 0.8 per cent to 47.6mnt, while shipments declined 1.2 per cent to 48.1mnt.
The curtailed production from Alcoa’s Intalco smelter in Western Australia in the third quarter of 2020 weighed on production in 2021.
Higher prices raised the company’s revenue by 31 per cent to $US12.2bn ($16.7bn), with third-party prices of primary aluminium rising 50 per cent.
Alcoa’s guidance for 2022 calls for 48-49mnt of bauxite shipments, with an announced restart of Portland Aluminium in Australia.
While junior firms will also remain present in Australia’s bauxite sectors, Fitch remains constructive towards Australian bauxite production, due to the heavy presence of major miners in the sector.
Rio and Alcoa are expected to push ahead with their expansion plans as a result of their stronger balance sheets compared with the juniors.
There are currently five large bauxite mines in Australia supplying to the country’s six alumina refineries, which in turn supply alumina to the four Australian aluminium smelters and the export market.
The major Australian bauxite mines are South32’s Boddington mine in WA, Rio Tinto’s Gove operations in the Northern Territory and its Weipa mine in Queensland, and Alcoa’s Huntly mine and Willowdale mine in WA.
Australia usually exports a third of its bauxite production while the remainder is converted to alumina.