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Alcoa Australia is working on literally reinventing the aluminium industry for a sustainable future.

The message was delivered by company vice president of operations, Michael Gollschewski, at a recent WA Mining Club presentation.

‘We are the world’s largest alumina refiner outside of China, and our alumina portfolio is the lowest carbon-emitting globally,” he said.

“More than 80 per cent of our aluminium smelting operations across Australia, Europe, South America and North America run on renewable energy sources.”

The price of aluminium is at an all-time high, hitting $US3450 per tonne after Russia invaded Ukraine, and demand is forecast to increase 65 per cent by 2050.

Alcoa’s product value chain is vertically integrated, so it mines bauxite, refines alumina and smelts aluminium. Its operations in Western Australia include the Huntley and Willowdale mines, and the Kwinana, Pinjarra and Wagerup refineries, and it is also involved in the Kwinana and Bunbury ports as well as operating the Portland aluminium smelter in Victoria.

Gollschewski said consumers demanded more sustainable products and that need has to be met.

“Sustainable practices are no longer a strategic consideration, they are a strategic imperative, that’s where aluminium comes in,” he said.

“Aluminium is an integral part of our lives because of its embedded characteristics; lightweight, durable, and 100 per cent recyclable.

“The global population grew from 2.5 billion in 1950 to a staggering 7.8 billion today. This exponential surge in population growth, and the consumption that goes with it, has to be balanced against the need to address the impacts on the planet. And aluminium has an enormous role going forward to a carbon-constrained world.”

In fact, Alcoa created the aluminium industry 134 years ago, and it’s been integral to several world firsts.

“Like the first historic flight by the Wright brothers in 1903. Their Kitty Hawk bi-plane was made using Alcoa aluminium,” Gollschewski said.

“We supplied the product for the first aluminium sheeted skyscraper, and the first all-aluminium car frame in 19984 for Audi.

“Aluminium is increasingly being used in place of heavier and less recyclable metals. It’s used in electric vehicles and packaging, and it’s vital for the evolving global economy in so many areas; aeronautical, medical, solar power and high-end ion batteries.

“We are working towards the development of zero-carbon alumina refining with the use of novel and technical processes, and we’ll be net-zero emissions by 2050.

“It’s a very robust market for aluminium. In fact it’s the most positive long term future than I’ve ever seen for aluminium before.”