Aluminum is representing the second largest metal market in the worldi. The world production of bauxite dropped by 7% in 2009 compared to 2008, alumina decreased with 6% from 2008 to 2009, and aluminum fell by almost 7% in the same period, due to the global financial crisis and global recession. China has become the leading producer of alumina and aluminum, and taken over Brazil’s position as second in bauxite productionii.Aluminum is primarily used to produce pistons, body of cars, aircrafts, beverage cans, engines, siding and aluminum foiliii, due to its characteristic of being light, pliable, recyclable and resistant to rustiv. Aluminum is produced from two sources: ore (primary), also called bauxite, and scrap (recycled aluminum / secondary).
Due to high energy requirements, the primary producers locate in areas with access to low energy costs sources, e.g. hydroelectric power, and the secondary near industrial centersv.Alumina, the main source of aluminum, is sold on both spot and contract terms, and the price is quoted on London Metal Exchange. Asia is the largest region of aluminum production with 43% market share, followed by Europe (24%) and America (22%)vi.
Transportation (26% market share), packaging (22%) and construction (22%) are the largest aluminum consuming industriesvii.The supply and demand balance is driven by adjusting the alumina production to meet the demand, due to the vertically integrated nature of the major firms. However, the significance of China’s increased production has lead to shortage in the refining capacities, leading to a historical high demand for aluminaviii.
The Chinese economy accounts for almost a quarter of the world’s aluminum consumption, and a forecasted increase in the automotive industry and growth in urban population is predicting a significant increase in demand the coming yearsix. Also, proposed regulations on CO2 from EU and increasing price of substitutes for aluminum are drivers for increased demand for aluminum. In contrast to the high demand for alumina refining, the demand for aluminum has been lower than the consumption. The demand was reduced due to the global recession, but continued to recover throughout 2010. However, it has still not reached a pre-recession level (Karpel, 2010)x.Bauxite, the main raw material for aluminum, is mainly concentrated in Western and Central Africa (mostly, Guinea), South America (Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname), the Caribbean (Jamaica), Oceania and Southern Asia (Australia, India), China, the Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey) and the Urals (Russia)xi, where the main players inherit a majority share.
United Company RUSCAL is the leading company in the aluminum industry and produces 4,153 million tonnes (m/t) of aluminum annually, followed by Alcoa (3965 m/t), Alcan (3454 m/t), Chalco (2035 m/t), Hydro Aluminum (1576 m/t) and BHP Billiton (1349 m/t).The main trends are characterized by consolidations lead by the limited raw materials supply, vertical integration to gain more control and lower energy costs, and moving abroad to lower-cost countries. India, Brazil, China and UAE are countries benefiting from these trends, and are presumed to be world-leaders in production and consumption of aluminum in the coming years.