World output of bauxite reached 220m tonnes in 2011 (US Geological Survey), the majority being used in the production of smelter grade alumina, itself used in the manufacture of aluminium. Smaller amounts (around 10m tonnes) of this served the niche non-metallurgical sector, which comprises applications such as abrasives, chemicals, calcium aluminate cement (CAC), refractories, and others.
China has long dominated trade in both the metallurgical and non-met. calcined bauxite sectors; the former through massive growth in its aluminium industry, and the latter through various export controls and natural geological advantages.
China is host to low-iron, relatively high-silica diasporic bauxite, which is most suitable for producing calcined bauxite grades for refractory use. This composition is also suitable for calcined bauxite grades for abrasives - used to manufacture brown fused alumina - and China leads world production on both fronts.
Over recent years, the country has favoured the development of its domestic industries over...