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Interview with Ashok Nandi, President of International Bauxite, Alumina & Aluminium Society

We spoke about India's bauxite output, the effects of growing aluminium demand, and more

You can hear more from Dr Nandi at this year's Bauxite & Alumina conference taking place in Miami in March.

Fastmarkets (FM): How has the implementation of more stringent environmental regulations influenced India’s Bauxite output?

Ashok Nandi (AN): It is the mix of environmental regulations and tribal population in most of the bauxite rich belts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha in the eastern part of India. Although with the joint efforts of state Government, local population and interested companies, the bauxite mining industry is prospering in Odisha and new mines are being opened. However, present Government of Andhra Pradesh has banned bauxite mining in the tribal belt, which is having adverse impact on the industry in the state. ANRAK alumina plant could not be started in Andhra Pradesh and, with present low alumina prices and extra cost to revive this plant, the project may not be viable with imported bauxite.

FM: With India’s demand for aluminium growing, are we likely to see bottlenecks occurring?

AN: Aluminium demand is constantly increasing in India and with the present trend it is expected that by 2030 total demand of this metal may be 10 million tonnes per annum. Part of this demand is being fulfilled by recycling of aluminium scraps and today the country is one of the largest importers of such scrap. Primary aluminium smelting capacity is also increasing and companies like Vedanta and Hindalco are expanding their capacities and have ambitious plans for the future. An International event (IBAAS 2020) is being organized in India on November 4-6, 2020 covering the complete value chain of the aluminium industry, with all major primary and secondary aluminium producers participating.

FM: What are some of the most significant challenges India’s Bauxite industry faces – and what are the solutions to overcoming them?

AN: The domestic bauxite mines are struggling to feed ever-increasing demand of alumina in the country, except public sector companies like NALCO. For example, Vedanta has an ambitious plan to expand the Lanjigarh alumina refinery to 6 million tonnes per annum, however, local supply is not enough and the plant has to import some of the bauxite. Like Chinese companies, it is time for the alumina producers of India to look for resources in bauxite rich countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Vietnam to feed their refineries, and to plan on setting up alumina facilities outside the country.  

FM: With Guinea’s Bauxite industry growing, what are the broader implications on human rights?

AN: Only bauxite mining and export cannot generate enough employment for the welfare of local population. It is time for large bauxite mining companies to come together to jointly set up alumina plants to minimize the country risks. More jobs should be provided to locals and, for specialized work only, foreigners should be invited.

FM: What can be done to encourage a fully sustainable, ethical and transparent aluminium value chain?

AN: It is necessary to bring transparency and involve the international community and organizations to assist the Guinean government in developing sustainable and transparent aluminium value chain in the country. Lessons should be learned from Indonesia and Malaysia. It is proposed to set up bauxite-alumina R&D institute in Guinea for developing local expertise and monitor sustainable development of this vital industry in the country.

FM: How are Guinea’s export markets expected to change?

AN: The increasing quality of bauxite mining in Guinea may completely stop bauxite exports from countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia may also feel the pressure and only good quality gibbsitic bauxite will dominate in the world market. China may also close down their low grade uneconomical and environmentally sensitive bauxite mines, however, dependence on only one country may pose some risks in the future.

You can hear more from Dr Nandi at this year's Bauxite & Alumina conference taking place in Miami in March.
This content is provided by Industrial Mineral Events for informational purposes only, and it reflects the market and industry conditions and presenter’s opinions and affiliations available at the time of the presentation.