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Bauxite with US penny for comparison BauxiteUSGOV.jpg
Bauxite with US penny for comparison
QEMSCAN mineral maps of bauxite ore-forming pisoliths Qemscan pisoliths.png
QEMSCAN mineral maps of bauxite ore-forming pisoliths

Bauxite is a sedimentary rock with a relatively high aluminium content. It is the world's main source of aluminium. Bauxite consists mostly of the aluminium minerals gibbsite (Al(OH)3), boehmite (γ-AlO(OH)) and diaspore (α-AlO(OH)), mixed with the two iron oxides goethite and haematite, the aluminium clay mineral kaolinite and small amounts of anatase (TiO2) and ilmenite (FeTiO3 or FeO.TiO2). [1] [2]

Sedimentary rock Rock formed by the deposition and subsequent cementation of material

Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of small particles and subsequent cementation of mineral or organic particles on the floor of oceans or other bodies of water at the Earth's surface. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause these particles to settle in place. The particles that form a sedimentary rock are called sediment, and may be composed of geological detritus (minerals) or biological detritus. Before being deposited, the geological detritus was formed by weathering and erosion from the source area, and then transported to the place of deposition by water, wind, ice, mass movement or glaciers, which are called agents of denudation. Biological detritus was formed by bodies and parts of dead aquatic organisms, as well as their fecal mass, suspended in water and slowly piling up on the floor of water bodies. Sedimentation may also occur as dissolved minerals precipitate from water solution.

Aluminium Chemical element with atomic number 13

Aluminium or aluminum is a chemical element with symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic and ductile metal in the boron group. By mass, aluminium makes up about 8% of the Earth's crust; it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon and the most abundant metal in the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.

Mineral Element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline and that has been formed as a result of geological processes

A mineral is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound that occurs naturally in pure form. A rock may consist of a single mineral, or may be an aggregate of two or more different minerals, spacially segregated into distinct phases. Compounds that occur only in living beings are usually excluded, but some minerals are often biogenic and/or are organic compounds in the sense of chemistry. Moreover, living beings often synthesize inorganic minerals that also occur in rocks.


In 1821 the French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux in Provence, southern France. [3] [ non-primary source needed ]

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Geology The study of the composition, structure, physical properties, and history of Earths components, and the processes by which they are shaped.

Geology is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Geology can also include the study of the solid features of any terrestrial planet or natural satellite such as Mars or the Moon. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other earth sciences, including hydrology and the atmospheric sciences, and so is treated as one major aspect of integrated earth system science and planetary science.

Pierre Berthier French geologist

Pierre Berthier was a French geologist and mining engineer.


Bauxite with core of unweathered rock Bauxite with unweathered rock core. C 021.jpg
Bauxite with core of unweathered rock

Numerous classification schemes have been proposed for bauxite but, as of 1982, there was no consensus. [4]

Vadász (1951) distinguished lateritic bauxites (silicate bauxites) from karst bauxite ores (carbonate bauxites): [4]

Laterite A soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium

Laterite is a soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium and is commonly considered to have formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are of rusty-red coloration, because of high iron oxide content. They develop by intensive and prolonged weathering of the underlying parent rock. Tropical weathering (laterization) is a prolonged process of chemical weathering which produces a wide variety in the thickness, grade, chemistry and ore mineralogy of the resulting soils. The majority of the land area containing laterites is between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Karst Topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks

Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. It has also been documented for more weathering-resistant rocks, such as quartzite, given the right conditions. Subterranean drainage may limit surface water, with few to no rivers or lakes. However, in regions where the dissolved bedrock is covered or confined by one or more superimposed non-soluble rock strata, distinctive karst features may occur only at subsurface levels and be totally missing above ground.

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is a natural occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted at a profit from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Guyana Country in South America

Guyana, officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America. It is often considered part of the Caribbean region because of its strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Anglo-Caribbean countries and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With an area of 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state on mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname.

Jamaica Country in the Caribbean

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola.

Tropics region of the Earth surrounding the Equator

The tropics are the region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. They are delimited in latitude by The Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.4″ (or 23.43678°) N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.4″ (or 23.43678°) S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth. The tropics are also referred to as the tropical zone and the torrid zone. The tropics include all the areas on the Earth where the Sun contacts a point directly overhead at least once during the solar year - thus the latitude of the tropics is roughly equal to the angle of the Earth's axial tilt.

Granite A common type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock with granular structure

Granite is a common type of felsic intrusive igneous rock that is granular and phaneritic in texture. Granites can be predominantly white, pink, or gray in color, depending on their mineralogy. The word "granite" comes from the Latin granum, a grain, in reference to the coarse-grained structure of such a holocrystalline rock. Strictly speaking, granite is an igneous rock with between 20% and 60% quartz by volume, and at least 35% of the total feldspar consisting of alkali feldspar, although commonly the term "granite" is used to refer to a wider range of coarse-grained igneous rocks containing quartz and feldspar.

Gneiss A common high-grade metamorphic rock

Gneiss is a common and widely distributed type of metamorphic rock. Gneiss is formed by high temperature and high-pressure metamorphic processes acting on formations composed of igneous or sedimentary rocks. Orthogneiss is gneiss derived from igneous rock. Paragneiss is gneiss derived from sedimentary rock. Gneiss forms at higher temperatures and pressures than schist. Gneiss nearly always shows a banded texture characterized by alternating darker and lighter colored bands and without a distinct foliation.

In the case of Jamaica, recent analysis of the soils showed elevated levels of cadmium, suggesting that the bauxite originates from recent Miocene ash deposits from episodes of significant volcanism in Central America.

Bauxite output in 2005 2005bauxite.png
Bauxite output in 2005
One of the world's largest bauxite mines in Weipa, Australia Weipa-bauxite-mine.jpg
One of the world's largest bauxite mines in Weipa, Australia

Australia is the largest producer of bauxite, followed by China. [5] In 2017, China was the top producer of aluminium with almost half of the world's production, followed by Russia, Canada, and India. [6] Although aluminium demand is rapidly increasing, known reserves of its bauxite ore are sufficient to meet the worldwide demands for aluminium for many centuries. [7] Increased aluminium recycling, which has the advantage of lowering the cost in electric power in producing aluminium, will considerably extend the world's bauxite reserves.

2017 total proven bauxite reserves x1,000 Mg [5]
CountryMine productionReserves
Guinea 45,0007,400,000
Australia 83,0006,000,000
Vietnam 2,0003,700,000
Brazil 36,0002,600,000
Jamaica 8,1002,000,000
China 68,0001,000,000
Indonesia 3,6001,000,000
Guyana 1,500850,000
India 27,000830,000
Russia 5,600500,000
Greece 1,800250,000
Saudi Arabia 3,900210,000
Kazakhstan 5,000160,000
Malaysia 1,000110,000
United States W [lower-alpha 1] 20,000
Other countries9,0303,200,000
World total (rounded)300,00030,000,000
  1. Withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data

In November 2010, Nguyen Tan Dung, the prime minister of Vietnam, announced that Vietnam's bauxite reserves might total 11,000 Mt (11 trillion kg); this would be the largest in the world. [8]


Bauxite being loaded at Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic, to be shipped elsewhere for processing; 2007 CaboRojoDRBauxite.jpg
Bauxite being loaded at Cabo Rojo, Dominican Republic, to be shipped elsewhere for processing; 2007
Bauxite being digested by washing with a hot solution of sodium hydroxide at 175 °C (347 °F) under pressure at National Aluminium Company, Nalconagar, India.

Bauxite is usually strip mined because it is almost always found near the surface of the terrain, with little or no overburden. As of 2010, approximately 70% to 80% of the world's dry bauxite production is processed first into alumina and then into aluminium by electrolysis. [9] Bauxite rocks are typically classified according to their intended commercial application: metallurgical, abrasive, cement, chemical, and refractory.

Usually, bauxite ore is heated in a pressure vessel along with a sodium hydroxide solution at a temperature of 150 to 200 °C (300 to 390 °F). At these temperatures, the aluminium is dissolved as sodium aluminate (the Bayer process). The aluminium compounds in the bauxite may be present as gibbsite(Al(OH)3), boehmite(AlOOH) or diaspore(AlOOH); the different forms of the aluminium component will dictate the extraction conditions. The undissolved waste, bauxite tailings, after the aluminium compounds are extracted contains iron oxides, silica, calcia, titania and some un-reacted alumina. After separation of the residue by filtering, pure gibbsite is precipitated when the liquid is cooled, and then seeded with fine-grained aluminium hydroxide. The gibbsite is usually converted into aluminium oxide, Al2O3, by heating in rotary kilns or fluid flash calciners to a temperature in excess of 1,000 °C (1,830 °F). This aluminium oxide is dissolved at a temperature of about 960 °C (1,760 °F) in molten cryolite. Next, this molten substance can yield metallic aluminium by passing an electric current through it in the process of electrolysis, which is called the Hall–Héroult process, named after its American and French discoverers.

Prior to the invention of this process, and prior to the Deville process, aluminium ore was refined by heating ore along with elemental sodium or potassium in a vacuum. The method was complicated and consumed materials that were themselves expensive at that time. This made early elemental aluminium more expensive than gold. [10]

Source of gallium

Bauxite is the main source of the rare metal gallium. [11]

During the processing of bauxite to alumina in the Bayer process, gallium accumulates in the sodium hydroxide liquor. From this it can be extracted by a variety of methods. The most recent is the use of ion-exchange resin [12] . Achievable extraction efficiencies critically depend on the original concentration in the feed bauxite. At a typical feed concentration of 50 ppm, about 15 percent of the contained gallium is extractable [12] . The remainder reports to the red mud and aluminium hydroxide streams. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hydroxide anion

Hydroxide is a diatomic anion with chemical formula OH. It consists of an oxygen and hydrogen atom held together by a covalent bond, and carries a negative electric charge. It is an important but usually minor constituent of water. It functions as a base, a ligand, a nucleophile, and a catalyst. The hydroxide ion forms salts, some of which dissociate in aqueous solution, liberating solvated hydroxide ions. Sodium hydroxide is a multi-million-ton per annum commodity chemical. A hydroxide attached to a strongly electropositive center may itself ionize, liberating a hydrogen cation (H+), making the parent compound an acid.

Aluminium oxide Chemical compound

Aluminium oxide (IUPAC name) or aluminum oxide (American English) is a chemical compound of aluminium and oxygen with the chemical formula Al2O3. It is the most commonly occurring of several aluminium oxides, and specifically identified as aluminium(III) oxide. It is commonly called alumina and may also be called aloxide, aloxite, or alundum depending on particular forms or applications. It occurs naturally in its crystalline polymorphic phase α-Al2O3 as the mineral corundum, varieties of which form the precious gemstones ruby and sapphire. Al2O3 is significant in its use to produce aluminium metal, as an abrasive owing to its hardness, and as a refractory material owing to its high melting point.

Aluminium hydroxide chemical compound

Aluminium hydroxide, Al(OH)3, is found in nature as the mineral gibbsite (also known as hydrargillite) and its three much rarer polymorphs: bayerite, doyleite, and nordstrandite. Aluminium hydroxide is amphoteric in nature, i.e., it has both basic and acidic properties. Closely related are aluminium oxide hydroxide, AlO(OH), and aluminium oxide or alumina (Al2O3), the latter of which is also amphoteric. These compounds together are the major components of the aluminium ore bauxite.

Gibbsite form of aluminium hydroxide, mineral

Gibbsite, Al(OH)3, is one of the mineral forms of aluminium hydroxide. It is often designated as γ-Al(OH)3 (but sometimes as α-Al(OH)3.). It is also sometimes called hydrargillite (or hydrargyllite).

Cryolite perovskite, halide mineral (as opposed to the chemical compound)

Cryolite (Na3AlF6, sodium hexafluoroaluminate) is an uncommon mineral identified with the once large deposit at Ivigtût on the west coast of Greenland, depleted by 1987.

The Bayer process is the principal industrial means of refining bauxite to produce alumina (aluminium oxide). Bauxite, the most important ore of aluminium, contains only 30–60% aluminium oxide (Al2O3), the rest being a mixture of silica, various iron oxides, and titanium dioxide. The aluminium oxide must be purified before it can be refined to aluminium metal.

Diaspore hydroxide mineral

Diaspore, also known as diasporite, empholite, kayserite, or tanatarite, is an aluminium oxide hydroxide mineral, α-AlO(OH), crystallizing in the orthorhombic system and isomorphous with goethite. It occurs sometimes as flattened crystals, but usually as lamellar or scaly masses, the flattened surface being a direction of perfect cleavage on which the lustre is markedly pearly in character. It is colorless or greyish-white, yellowish, sometimes violet in color, and varies from translucent to transparent. It may be readily distinguished from other colorless transparent minerals with a perfect cleavage and pearly luster—like mica, talc, brucite, and gypsum— by its greater hardness of 6.5 - 7. The specific gravity is 3.4. When heated before the blowpipe it decrepitates violently, breaking up into white pearly scales.

Boehmite hydroxide mineral

Boehmite or böhmite is an aluminium oxide hydroxide mineral, a component of the aluminium ore bauxite. It is dimorphous with diaspore. It crystallizes in the orthorhombic dipyramidal system and is typically massive in habit. It is white with tints of yellow, green, brown or red due to impurities. It has a vitreous to pearly luster, a Mohs hardness of 3 to 3.5 and a specific gravity of 3.00 to 3.07. It is colorless in thin section, optically biaxial positive with refractive indices of nα = 1.644 - 1.648, nβ = 1.654 - 1.657 and nγ = 1.661 - 1.668.

The Deville process was the first industrial process used to produce alumina from bauxite.

Sodium aluminate chemical compound

Sodium aluminate is an inorganic chemical that is used as an effective source of aluminium hydroxide for many industrial and technical applications. Pure sodium aluminate (anhydrous) is a white crystalline solid having a formula variously given as NaAlO2, NaAl(OH)4 (hydrated), Na2O·Al2O3, or Na2Al2O4. Commercial sodium aluminate is available as a solution or a solid.
Other related compounds, sometimes called sodium aluminate, prepared by reaction of Na2O and Al2O3 are Na5AlO4 which contains discrete AlO45− anions, Na7Al3O8 and Na17Al5O16 which contain complex polymeric anions, and NaAl11O17, once mistakenly believed to be β-alumina, a phase of aluminium oxide.

Lepidocrocite hydroxide mineral

Lepidocrocite, also called esmeraldite or hydrohematite, is an iron oxide-hydroxide mineral. Lepidocrocite has an orthorhombic crystal structure, a hardness of 5, specific gravity of 4, a submetallic luster and a yellow-brown streak. It is red to reddish brown and forms when iron-containing substances rust underwater. Lepidocrocite is commonly found in the weathering of primary iron minerals and in iron ore deposits. It can be seen as rust scale inside old steel water pipes and water tanks.

Sodium hexafluoroaluminate chemical compound

Sodium aluminium hexafluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula Na3AlF6. This white solid, discovered by José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, occurs naturally as the mineral cryolite and is used extensively in the industrial production of aluminium metal. The compound consists of the sodium (Na+) salt of hexafluoroaluminate (AlF63−).

The Kaolin deposits of the Charentes Basin in France are clay deposits formed sedimentarily and then confined by other geological structures.

Aluminium hydroxide oxide or aluminium oxyhydroxide, AlO(OH) is found as one of two well defined crystalline phases, which are also known as the minerals boehmite and diaspore. The minerals are important constituents of the aluminium ore, bauxite.

Aluminium carbonate (Al2(CO3)3), is a carbonate of aluminium. It is not well characterized; one authority says that simple carbonates of aluminium are not known. Basic sodium aluminium carbonate, the mineral dawsonite, is a known compound.

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated.

Bauxite tailings

Bauxite tailings, also known as red mud, red sludge, bauxite residue, or alumina refinery residues (ARR), is a highly alkaline waste product composed mainly of iron oxide that is generated in the industrial production of alumina. Annually, about 77 million tons of the red special waste are produced, causing a serious disposal problem in the mining industry. The scale of production makes the waste product an important one, and issues with its storage are reviewed and every opportunity is explored to find uses for it.


  1. Geological Survey Professional Paper page b20 [ permanent dead link ]
  2. The Clay Minerals Society Glossary for Clay Science Project Archived 2016-04-16 at the Wayback Machine
  3. P. Berthier (1821) "Analyse de l'alumine hydratée des Beaux, département des Bouches-du-Rhóne" (Analysis of hydrated alumina from Les Beaux, department of the Mouths-of-the-Rhone), Annales des mines, 1st series, 6 : 531-534. Notes:
    • In 1847, in the cumulative index of volume 3 of his series, Traité de minéralogie, French mineralogist Armand Dufrénoy listed the hydrated alumina from Les Beaux as "beauxite". (See: A. Dufrénoy, Traité de minéralogie, volume 3 (Paris, France: Carilian-Goeury et Vor Dalmont, 1847), p. 799.)
    • In 1861, H. Sainte-Claire Deville credits Berthier with naming "bauxite", on p. 309, "Chapitre 1. Minerais alumineux ou bauxite" of: H. Sainte-Claire Deville (1861) "De la présence du vanadium dans un minerai alumineux du midi de la France. Études analytiques sur les matières alumineuses." (On the presence of vanadium in an alumina mineral from the Midi of France. Analytical studies of aluminous substances.), Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 3rd series, 61 : 309-342.
  4. 1 2 Bárdossy, G. (1982). Karst Bauxites. Amsterdam: Elsevier. p. 16. ISBN   978-0-444-99727-2.
  5. 1 2 U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, January 2018 (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. 2018. pp. 30–31.
  7. "Bauxite and Alumina" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. p. 2. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  8. "Mining Journal - Vietnam's bauxite reserves may total 11 billion tonnes". Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
  9. "BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Making aluminium". Archived from the original on 2018-02-25. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  10. Michael Quinion (2006-01-23). "Aluminium versus aluminum". Retrieved 2011-12-19.
  11. "Compilation of Gallium Resource Data for Bauxite Deposits Author: USGS" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  12. 1 2 Frenzel, Max; Ketris, Marina P.; Seifert, Thomas; Gutzmer, Jens (March 2016). "On the current and future availability of gallium". Resources Policy. 47: 38–50. doi:10.1016/j.resourpol.2015.11.005.
  13. Moskalyk, R. R. (2003). "Gallium: the backbone of the electronics industry". Minerals Engineering. 16 (10): 921–929. doi:10.1016/j.mineng.2003.08.003.

Further reading