China Dominates Worldwide Aluminum Production

May 26, 2009
Global output expected to fall

China is the world's No. 1 producer of aluminum, accounting for one-third of both world production and world consumption of primary aluminum, according to a report by minerals and metals research firm Roskill Information Services.

While China is self sufficient in aluminum metal and approaching self sufficiency in alumina, dependence on imported bauxite remains high despite rising output, Roskill reported on May 22. However, power supply issues and high costs of production could result in declining production in the longer term and the possibility that China will become a net importer of primary aluminum.

Russia, Canada, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Norway and India are the principal producing countries after China. These countries together account for about three-quarters of the world's primary aluminum output.

Although some 200 smelters, half of which are in China, produce primary aluminum, 14 companies operating about 100 plants controlled over 60% of output in 2007. Consolidation of the Russian companies Rusal and Sual with Glencore in 2006 into UC Rusal, and the acquisition of Alcan by Rio Tinto in 2007 resulted in two aluminum producers comparable in size to Alcoa.

World aluminum output rose by between 0.15% and 12.2% annually between 1994 and 2008, averaging 5% per year. Growth averaged around 7% per year after 2001 mainly due to explosive expansion in production in China. Output began to contract in the second half of 2008 and this accelerated in 2009, meaning that world aluminum production is likely to decline for the first time in fifteen years and by as much as 5%.

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