Aluminum Product of Frontiers

By: Flor Ayag

A GIANT consuming unbelievable quantities of food day after day, hour after hour-that well describes an aluminum smelter. Its meat is the primary ore of aluminum, bauxite, or its by-product, alumina. Whichever one, there must be a constant supply flowing through, and at the same time vast quantities of electric power must be available. To establish a smelter area, then, there must be a major source of electric power and also a good port close by.

Would a location with these facilities be suitable near some large city? No, because other consumers would be making large demands on the power source. An aluminum smelter must have practically exclusive use of the power supply. This is why the aluminum industry is usually a pioneer of frontier country.

To a large extent, the determining factors for choosing a smelter site are geography and a climate with sufficient precipitation to ensure a steady volume of water. Norway's only aluminum smelter takes advantage of power generated by water dropping 2,735 feet from the surrounding mountains.

In Ghana, the Volta River has been dammed by a hydroelectric generating station to supply an aluminum smelter and a plant for processing one of the world's largest deposits of bauxite into alumina. The mountainous region of Minas Gerais state in Brazil at Curo Preto has three modern hydroelectric plants supplying a smelter that obtains its bauxite only one kilometer distant from the operation.

Fifty years ago at Shawinigan Falls, Quebec, the industry installed a large generating plant and smelter in the back country of the St. Maurice River valley, one hundred miles west of Quebec city. A few years later, north of that city a power plant and smelter were constructed on the Saguenay River at Isle Maligne. Shortly afterward Arvida, a few miles east on the same river, saw the beginnings of the world's largest aluminum smelter-one that opened to industry the once-closed country of the Saguenay. Now on Canada's west coast, part of the hinterland of British Columbia has been opened up by the Kitimat smelter installations of the Aluminum Company of Canada.

Opening New Frontiers

In Guyana, country of the fabled El Dorado, immense deposits of alumina-rich mineral have been developed. For fifty-four years the reddish-brown ore has been blasted out of beds averaging fifteen to forty-five feet in thickness. By 1958 the area around the community of Mackenzie was producing 300,000 tons of bauxite annually. Today the storage bins at its modern docks load almost three million tons yearly into vessels bound for Quebec's Saguenay smelters.

Ten years ago few people had ever heard of Weipa on the far-northern coast of Queensland, Australia. In 1955 an Australian geologist discovered in this isolated area what has turned out to be the world's largest deposit of bauxite. Seventy-three square miles were already blocked out by 1968 with 516 million tons of proven ore reserves. Scout drilling over another 160 square miles revealed a potential of 1,200 million tons. Suddenly, Australia was in the bauxite business to an extent that made the aluminum industry around the world sit up and take notice.

The Weipa mining operation is very simple. When the layer of ore is reached, at times 30 feet thick, no blasting is needed. Loaders simply lift it out of its bed and onto 50-ton aluminum-body dump trucks. It is taken to the beneficiation plant where the ore grade is improved by sizing and washing. Conveyor belts then take the washed, treated ore to an open stockpile, from where a conveyor loading system transfers it to ore ships.

Already over $40,000,000 had been spent on this development by last year. In addition to the modern plant and harbor works, there is a new community housing over 350 people, with air-conditioned homes, a school, stores, a theater, police and hospital services. From being a wilderness in 1957 Weipa is now one of the top bulk-material shipping ports of Australia. Maximum capacity of the installation in 1963 was half a million tons annually. This figure rose to four million tons in 1968, and is contemplated to reach seven million tons annually by early in the seventies.

Thus in Guyana and Australia new frontiers have been opened up. But in these, as with other countries, the spread of industry to frontier areas has not been an unmixed blessing. Trees and vegetation are knocked down, and open-pit mines replace the wilderness beauty. Of course, the Creator put into the earth minerals for man to use, and how rich indeed this earth is in mineral wealth! It is also God's purpose that this earth be a Paradise. But man in his exploitation of the mineral resources of the earth often leaves unsightly scars and makes portions of the land a desolate waste. He has not solved the problem of using earth's resources without marring the beauty of his earthly home.

Car Parts
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Car Parts
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles