Aluminum facts

Light, strong, flexible, non-corrosive and infinitely recyclable, aluminum is one of the most widely used and recycled metals in the world.

Key facts

  • Canada's primary aluminum production in 2017 was estimated at 3.2 million tonnes
  • Canada is the world's third largest primary aluminum producer after China and Russia
  • By using mostly hydroelectricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum producers have the lowest carbon footprint compared with the other world's large producers

Learn more about aluminum

Uses

The construction industry relies on a variety of aluminum alloys in the manufacture of products ranging from exterior siding to structural components. Aluminum's ability to conduct heat and electricity also makes it a popular choice in the electrical and electronics industries.

Aluminum is also widely used in:

  • transportation, because of its lightness and durability, which reduces a vehicle's weight and, in turn, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
  • packaging, such as beverage cans and foils, which benefit from its infinitely recyclable properties

Aluminum, global uses, 2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the major uses of aluminum globally in 2017. The largest use was for construction (33%), followed by automotive and transportation (28%), electrical engineering and electronics (18%), machinery and equipment (10%), consumer goods (4%), foil and packaging (2%), and other applications (5%).

Production

In nature, aluminum does not exist in a pure state. The production of primary aluminum metal begins with bauxite ore, which is composed of hydrated aluminum oxide (40% to 60%) mixed with silica and iron oxide.

It takes about 4 to 5 tonnes of bauxite ore to produce approximately 2 tonnes of alumina. In turn, it takes 2 tonnes of alumina to produce approximately 1 tonne of aluminum.

There are 10 primary aluminum smelters in Canada: one is located in Kitimat, British Columbia, and the other nine are in Quebec. There is also one alumina refinery, located in Saguenay, Quebec.

No bauxite is mined in Canada.

Canadian refinery and smelters, estimated capacity, 2017

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This map shows the location of the alumina refinery and aluminum smelters in Canada. There is one alumina refinery (located in Quebec) and there are 10 aluminum smelters (one in Kitimat, British Columbia, and nine in Quebec). The largest smelter is the Alouette facility, located in Sept-Îles, Quebec, with a capacity of 598,000 tonnes per year. The ownership and capacity in tonnes per year of each facility are provided in the legend.

Canada's primary aluminum production in 2017 was estimated at 3.2 million tonnes, the same as in 2016. By using mostly hydroelectricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum producers have the lowest carbon footprint compared with the other world's large producers.

Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's annual primary aluminum production from 2008 to 2017. Canada produced an estimated 3.1 million tonnes in 2008 and an estimated 3.2 million tonnes in 2017.

International context

World primary aluminum production totalled 60.0 million tonnes in 2017. China was the world's largest producer with 33 million tonnes, followed by Russia and Canada.

Find out more about aluminum production on an international scale:

Bauxite ore, by country
World production of bauxite ore, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Australia 83,000 27.6%
2 China 68,000 22.6%
3 Guinea 45,000 15.0%
4 Brazil 36,000 12.0%
5 India 27,000 9.0%
6 Jamaica 8,100 2.7%
7 Russia 5,600 1.9%
Other countries 27,830 9.2%
Total 300,530 100.0%
Alumina, by country
World production of alumina, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 72,300 54.4%
2 Australia 20,600 15.5%
3 Brazil 11,000 8.3%
4 India 6,170 4.6%
5 Russia 2,800 2.1%
6 Jamaica 1,980 1.5%
7 Ireland 1,930 1.5%
8 Germany 1,900 1.4%
9 Ukraine 1,660 1.2%
10 Canada 1,570 1.2%
Other countries 11,070 8.3%
Total 132,980 100.0%
Primary aluminum, by country
World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 32,600 54.4%
2 Russia 3,600 6.0%
3 Canada 3,212 5.4%
4 India 3,200 5.3%
5 United Arab Emirates 2,600 4.3%
6 Australia 1,490 2.5%
7 Norway 1,220 2.0%
8 Bahrain 960 1.6%
9 Iceland 870 1.5%
10 Brazil 800 1.3%
11 Malaysia 760 1.3%
12 United States 740 1.2%
Other countries 7,900 13.2%
Total 59,952 100.0%

World production of primary aluminum, 2008–2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world production of primary aluminum in millions of tonnes from 2008 to 2017. World production was 39.9 million tonnes in 2008. It trended upward over the next decade to reach 59.9 million tonnes in 2017.

World reserves

In 2017, world reserves of bauxite ore were assessed at 29.8 billion tonnes.

World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2017 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world reserves of bauxite ore by country in billions of tonnes in 2017. Guinea held the largest reserves, with 7.4, followed by Australia (6.0), Vietnam (3.7), Brazil (2.6), Jamaica (2.0), Indonesia (1.0) and other countries (7.1).

Demand

Global demand for primary aluminum reached an estimated 63.1 million tonnes in 2017, representing a 5.7% increase compared with 2016. World aluminum demand grew at an annual average rate of 6.0% between 2012 and 2017, largely supported by increased demand in China and key sectors such as construction and transportation.

China accounted for the largest share of global aluminum consumption by region in 2017, followed by Europe, Japan and the United States.

Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2017 (p)

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This circular chart shows the estimated demand for primary aluminum by region in percentages in 2017. China accounted for the largest percentage of global demand (54.3), followed by Europe (14.1), Asia (excluding China) (13.2), North America (10.8), Latin America (2.2) and other countries (5.4).

Trade

Exports

Canadian exports of aluminum products were valued at $12.7 billion in 2017, an increase of $1.9 billion over 2016. Of this amount:

  • $8.2 billion was used for unwrought alloyed and non-alloyed aluminum
  • $1,057 million was used for aluminum waste and scrap
  • $676 million was used for aluminum plates, sheets and strip

The United States was Canada's largest export destination for aluminum products, accounting for 87.2% of total aluminum export trade, followed by Mexico (3.3%), Japan (2.6%), South Korea (2.4%) and China (2.1%).

Imports

Canada's total imports of aluminum products were valued at $7.1 billion in 2017, an increase of $800 million over 2016. Approximately 58.0% of imports were semi-fabricated and fabricated aluminum products.

Imports came from the United States (49.2%), Brazil (23.0%), China (9.8%), Australia (5.3%) and Germany (1.8%).

Prices

Global demand for aluminum was more robust than expected, helping prices move upward from their recent low in 2015.

Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2008–2017

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This line graph shows the monthly average price of aluminum in US dollars per tonne from 2008 to 2017, taken from the IndexMundi exchange. In 2017, the average monthly prices were: January, $1,791; February, $1,861; March, $1,901; April, $1,921; May, $1,913; June, $1,885; July, $1,903; August, $2,030; September, $2,096; October, $2,131; November, $2,097 and December, $2,080. The 2017 yearly average price was $1,968.

Recycling

The intensity of aluminum use in transportation is rising as its unique properties and recyclability fit the world's needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, making it one of the most recycled metals in the world. More than 90% of the aluminum used in automotive and construction applications is recycled, driving a closed-loop circular economy.

Secondary aluminum production requires 95% less energy than primary aluminum production.

Notes and sources

(p) preliminary

Totals may be different because of rounding.

Uses

  • Aluminum, global uses, 2017 (p)
    • Aluminium Association of Canada, 2017

Production

  • Canadian refinery and smelters, estimated capacity, 2017
    • Natural Resources Canada; company websites
  • Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2008–2017 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; Aluminium Association of Canada

International context

  • World production of bauxite ore, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of alumina, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, 2008–2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2017 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2017 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie

Prices

  • Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2008–2017
    • IndexMundi