Aluminum facts

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

Key facts

  • Canada’s primary aluminum production in 2016 was estimated at 3.2 million tonnes.
  • Canada is the world’s third largest primary aluminum producer after China and Russia.
  • Using mostly hydro-electricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum production has the lowest carbon footprint compared to other large global 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. Its ability to conduct heat and electricity also make aluminum a popular choice in the electrical and electronics industries.

Aluminum is also widely used in:

  • transportation for 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, 2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the major uses of aluminum in 2016. The largest use was for construction (33%), followed by automotive and transportation (28%), electrical 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 commences with bauxite ore, which is composed of hydrated aluminum oxide (40% to 60%) mixed with silica and iron oxide.

Roughly 4 to 5 tonnes of bauxite ore are refined to produce approximately 2 tonnes of alumina. This 2 tonnes of alumina is smelted to produce approximately 1 tonne of aluminum.

There are 10 primary aluminum smelters in Canada: 1 is located at Kitimat, British Columbia, and the other 9 are in Quebec.

There is also 1 alumina refinery located in Saguenay, Quebec.

No bauxite is mined in Canada.

Canadian refinery and smelters, estimated capacity, 2016

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This map of Canada shows the alumina refinery and aluminum smelters and their location, ownership and capacity in tonnes per year. There is 1 alumina refinery located in Quebec and 10 aluminum smelters (1 in Kitimat, British Columbia, and 9 in Quebec). The largest smelter is the Alouette smelter located in Sept-Îles, Quebec, with a capacity of 609,000 tonnes per year.

Canada’s primary aluminum production in 2016 was estimated at 3.2 million tonnes, an increase of 11.4% from the 2.9 million tonnes produced in 2015. Using mostly hydro-electricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum production has the lowest carbon footprint compared to other large global producers.

Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows Canada’s primary aluminum production from 2007 to 2016. Canada produced an estimated 3.1 million tonnes in 2007 and an estimated 3.2 million tonnes in 2016.

International context

World primary aluminum production totaled 57.6 million tonnes in 2016. China was the world’s largest producer with 31 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, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Australia 82,000 31.2%
2 China 65,000 24.8%
3 Brazil 34,500 13.1%
4 India 25,000 9.5%
5 Guinea 19,700 7.5%
6 Jamaica 8,500 3.2%
7 Russia 5,400 2.1%
8 Other countries 22,360 8.5%
- Total 262,460 100.0%
Alumina by country
World production of alumina, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 58,500 49.5%
2 Australia 20,700 17.5%
3 Brazil 10,800 9.1%
4 India 5,860 5.0%
5 Russia 2,700 2.3%
6 United States 2,500 2.1%
7 Ireland 1,900 1.6%
8 Jamaica 1,850 1.6%
9 Saudi Arabia 1,700 1.4%
10 Canada 1,550 1.3%
11 Other countries 10,210 8.6%
- Total 118,270 100.0%
Primary aluminum by country
World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2016 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 31,000 53.8%
2 Russia 3,580 6.2%
3 Canada 3,250 5.6%
4 India 2,750 4.8%
5 United Arab Emirates 2,400 4.2%
6 Australia 1,680 2.9%
7 Norway 1,230 2.1%
8 Bahrain 970 1.7%
9 United States 840 1.5%
10 Other countries 9,900 17.2%
- Total 57,600 100.0%

World production of primary aluminum, 2007–2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the global production of primary aluminum in millions of tonnes from 2007 to 2016. Global production was 38.1 million tonnes in 2007. It trended upward over the next decade to reach 57.6 million tonnes in 2016.

World reserves

In 2016, global reserves of bauxite ore were assessed at 27.5 billion tonnes.

World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2016 (p)

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This bar chart shows the global reserves of bauxite by country in billions of tonnes in 2016. Guinea held the largest reserves with 7.4, followed by Australia (6.2), Brazil (2.6), Vietnam (2.1), Jamaica (2.0), Indonesia (1.0) and other countries (6.5).

Demand

Global demand for primary aluminum reached an estimated 59.7 million tonnes in 2016, representing a 5.1% increase compared to 2015. World aluminum demand grew at an annual average rate of 6.1% between 2011 and 2016, 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 2016, followed by Europe, Japan and the United States.

Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2016 (p)

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This pie chart shows the estimated demand for primary aluminum by region in percentages in 2016. China accounted for the largest percentage of global demand with 52.9, followed by Europe (14.5), Asia (excluding China) (13.5), North America (11.0), Latin America (2.4) and other countries (5.7).

Trade

Exports

Canadian exports of aluminum products were valued at $10.8 billion in 2016, an increase of $211 million over 2015. Of this amount:

  • $6.6 billion comprised unwrought alloyed and non-alloyed aluminum
  • $880 million comprised aluminum waste and scrap
  • $686 million comprised aluminum plates, sheets and strip

The United States was Canada’s largest export destination for aluminum products, accounting for 86.3% of total aluminum export trade, followed by Mexico (3.4%), South Korea (2.9%), Japan (1.9%) and China (1.8%).

Imports

Canada’s total imports of aluminum products were valued at $6.3 billion in 2016, a decrease of $311 million over 2015. Approximately 62.5% of imports comprised semi-fabricated and fabricated aluminum products.

Imports came from the United States (53.8%), Brazil (16.6%), China (9.6%), Australia (5.9%) and Germany (2.3%).

Prices

Global demand for aluminum was more robust than expected, helping prices move upward from the low of 2015.

Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2007–2016

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This line chart shows the monthly average price of aluminum in U.S. dollars per tonne from 2007 to 2016, taken from the IndexMundi exchange. In 2016, the average monthly prices were: January, $1,481; February, $1,531; March, $1,531; April, $1,571; May, $1,551; June, $1,594; July, $1,629; August, $1,639; September, $1,592; October, $1,666; November, $1,737; and December, $1,728. The 2016 yearly average price was $1,604.

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, 2016 (p)
    • Aluminium Association of Canada, 2016

Production

  • Canadian refinery and smelters, estimated capacity, 2016
    • Natural Resources Canada; company websites
  • Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2007–2016 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; Aluminium Association of Canada

International context

  • World production of bauxite ore, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of alumina, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, 2007–2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2016 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2016 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie

Prices

  • Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2007–2016
    • IndexMundi