1. Aluminum industry: Foreign Locations
  2. Aluminum Industries: Desi Location
  3. Hindalco/ Birla
  4. Vedanta Aluminum
  5. Niyamgiri hills


To understand the reason behind location of aluminum refineries, first we need to understand how aluminum is produced from bauxite?
Phase: bauxite to Alumina

  • Aluminum is an abundant mineral in the crust of earth but for mining or commercial scale exploitation, you require significant concentration of bauxite ore at one particular site.
  • Bauxite occurs frequently in the tropical areas where limestone rocks are exposed to weathering
  • First, Bauxite ore is crushed, washed and mixed with caustic soda to remove impurities.
  • Then it is dried in large furnaces to remove moisture content=> you get alumina.
  • During this phase, ~50% or more weight loss happens.
  • Hence, this process (of converting bauxite to Alumina) is done near the raw material side. Because less weight= less transportation cost.

map-bauxite reserves of the world Aluminium industry

Phase: alumina to aluminum

  • Involves electrolysis.
  • The white powder of alumina is dissolved in a bath and electric current is passed through it using carbon electrodes. Result- alumina is converted to aluminum.
  • But this stage requires massive amount of electricity
  • Therefore, aluminum smelting facilities are set up near sources of cheap electricity, rather than near to raw material or near to final market.

Aluminum industry: Foreign Locations

Canada and Norway
  • don’t have any significant quantities of bauxite ore, yet they have many aluminum processing industries in the country. Why?
  • Because both of them have cheap hydroelectric power.
  • used to have aluminum smelters in its domestic soil but with rising cost of electricity, now they’ve shifted their refining to Australia, Indonesia etc. by leasing, long-term supply agreements Merger-acquisition etc.
  • Has largest deposits of Bauxite.
  • Queensland & Victoria: use coal based thermal powerplants.
  • Tasmania: use hydroelectricity
  • Eastern USA: Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama
  • Western USA: Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico states.
  • Declined because various environmental taxes & regulations had increased the cost of production.
  • As Dollar strengthened against Chinese, Australian currency, it became cheaper to import aluminum than produce it using expensive electricity +taxes @USA.

Cheap electricity =deciding factor for location of Aluminum refinery.

Japan, United States and Western Europe Australia, Canada, Brazil, Middle East, Russia and China.
Declined because of rising cost of electricity + pollution related taxes and laws. Cheap electricity from coal/hydro.

Largest producer (2012 data)

Alumina China
Aluminum Australia

Still China imports a substantial amount of Aluminum from Indonesia. Why?

  1. Aluminum is cheaper substitute of Copper.
  2. used backing plates for flat screen TVs (a lightweight alternative to steel), tablet computers, mobile phones, laptops or as a laminated film used in exterior packaging for batteries;
  3. Aluminum in green applications such as solar paneling (used in the frame) and wind farms (in submarine cables for off-shore wind farm projects.

Chinese industry involved manufacturing all of above, hence need large-scale supply of aluminum.

Aluminum Industries: Desi Location

aluminium industry hindalco-renukut

Hindalco/ Birla
FACTOR Renukoot, UP Hirakud, Odisha
  • Lohardaga-Pakhar region @Jharkhand,
  • Korba-Bastar region @Chhattisgarh
  • Odisha itself rich in bauxite reserves, particularly Kalahandi-Koratpur region.
  • Hydro electricity from Rihand Dam on Rihand river in Sonbhadra district, UP.
  • The reservoir behind this dam, known as Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar
  • Hirakud dam on Mahanadi river.
  • + captive coal blocks @ Talabira, approximately 45 km from Hirakud
  • Aluminum Refining required skilled worker.
  • Skilled labour=mobile (compared to uneducated, unskilled labour).
  • Besides, this plant has its own residential colony cum mini township, hospital etc.
  • Hirakud has a township
  • nearest city Sambalpur just 15 kms away.
  • connected to all important industrial regions and ports via rail-road network.
  • Nearest airport ~160 kms in city of Varanasi.
  • It is situated 6 km away from NH-6 connecting Kolkata and Mumbai

Vedanta Aluminum

  • Vedanta is an integrated producer of Aluminum in India with mines, smelters and associated power plants.
  • Korba (Chhattisgarh) and Jharsuguda (Odisha)
  • Both places have bauxite and coal deposits.
  • Vedanta uses that coal for generating thermal electricity in its own captive power plants. Same electricity used for refining alumina to aluminum.

Niyamgiri hills

Located in Odisha. Considered sacred by the tribal groups such as the Dongria Kondh, Kutia Kandha etc. Vedanta Resources ltd. wanted to extract Bauxite from here, project worth more than $1.5 billion.

  • The whole “Rahul Gandhi” episode.
  • Union environment ministry rejected environment clearance to Vedanta’s project in the Niyamgiri hills citing serious violation of forest and environment laws
  • Supreme Court said under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the gram sabhas of this area have the ultimate powers to take a decision on whether the Vedanta group’s can go forward or not.
  • FRA protects a wide range of rights of forest dwellers and STs including the customary rights to use forest land. And gram sabha has the power to decide on protecting forests and natural heritage.

After this Vedanta verdict, Andra also facing crisis because their state government has given bauxite mining projects in Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts. Local tribal demanding similar ‘environmental referendum’ under FRA.

OTHER Aluminium Cos.
BALCO Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
NALCO Koratpur, Odisha
MALCO Mettur, TN

In the next article, we’ll look at the geographical factors responsible for the location of Copper, Zinc, Lead and Acid industries.
Visit Mrunal.org/geography for the Archive of all geography articles published so far.