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 2018 was estimated at 2.9 million tonnes
  • Canada is the world's fourth largest primary aluminum producer after China, Russia and India
  • By using mostly hydroelectricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum producers have the lowest carbon footprint in the world compared to other large producers

Learn more about aluminum

Uses

The automotive and transportation industry relies on a variety of aluminum alloys in the manufacture of various components, because of its lightness and durability, which reduces a vehicle’s weight and, in turn, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Aluminum is also widely used in:

  • construction, which relies on various aluminum products, from exterior siding to structural components
  • the electrical and electronics industries
  • packaging, such as beverage cans and foils, which benefit from its infinitely recyclable properties

Aluminum, global uses, 2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the major uses of aluminum globally in 2018. The largest use was for automotive and transportation (24%), followed by construction (23%), consumer goods (14%), foil and packaging (13%), electrical engineering and electronics (11%), machinery and equipment (9%), and other applications (6%).

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 approximately 4 to 5 tonnes of bauxite ore to produce 2 tonnes of alumina. In turn, it takes approximately 2 tonnes of alumina to produce 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, 2018

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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 584,000 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 2018 was estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, a decrease from 2017’s 3.2 million tonnes. By using mostly hydroelectricity and the latest generation of technologies, Canadian aluminum producers have the lowest carbon footprint compared with the world's other large producers.

Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows Canada's annual primary aluminum production from 2009 to 2018. Canada produced an estimated 3.0 million tonnes in 2009 and an estimated 2.9 million tonnes in 2018.

International context

World primary aluminum production totaled just over 60.0 million tonnes in 2018. China was the world's largest producer with 33 million tonnes, followed by Russia, India and Canada.

Find out more about aluminum production on an international scale:

Bauxite ore, by country
World production of bauxite ore, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 Australia 75,000 25.4%
2 China 70,000 23.7%
3 Guinea 50,000 17.0%
4 Brazil 27,000 9.1%
5 India 24,000 8.1%
6 Jamaica 10,000 3.4%
7 Russia 5,500 1.9%
  Other countries 33,600 11.4%
Total   295,100 100.0%
Alumina, by country
World production of alumina, by country, 2018 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 72,000 55.6%
2 Australia 19,000 14.7%
3 Brazil 7,900 6.1%
4 India 6,500 5.0%
5 Russia 2,800 2.2%
6 Jamaica 2,500 1.9%
7 Canada 1,600 1.2%
  Other countries 17,200 13.3%
Total   129,500 100.0%
Primary aluminum, by country
World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2017 (p)
Ranking Country Thousand tonnes Percentage of total
1 China 33,000 55.0%
2 Russia 3,700 6.2%
3 India 3,700 6.1%
4 Canada 2,923 4.9%
5 United Arab Emirates 2,600 4.3%
6 Australia 1,600 2.7%
7 Norway 1,300 2.1%
8 Bahrain 1000 1.7%
9 United States 890 1.5%
10 Iceland 870 1.4%
11 Brazil 660 1.1%
  Other countries 7,800 13.0%
Total   60,043 100.0%

World production of primary aluminum, 2009–2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world production of primary aluminum in millions of tonnes from 2009 to 2018. World production was 40.0 million tonnes in 2009. It trended upward over the next decade to reach 60.0 million tonnes in 2018.

World reserves

In 2018, world reserves of bauxite ore were assessed at 30.4 billion tonnes.

World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2018 (p)

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This bar graph shows the world reserves of bauxite ore by country in billions of tonnes in 2018. Guinea held the largest reserves, with 7.4 billion tonnes, followed by Australia (6.0 billion tonnes), Vietnam (3.7 billion tonnes), Brazil (2.6 billion tonnes), Jamaica (2.0 billion tonnes), Indonesia (1.2 billion tonnes) and other countries (7.5 billion tonnes).

Demand

Global demand for primary aluminum reached an estimated 69.0 million tonnes in 2018, representing an 8.6% increase compared with 2017. World aluminum demand grew at an average annual rate of 6.5% between 2013 and 2018, 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 2018, followed by North America, Asia and Europe.

Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2018 (p)

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This circular chart shows the estimated demand for primary aluminum by region in percentages in 2018. China accounted for the largest percentage of global demand (67.4%), followed by North America (13.7%), Asia (excluding China) (7.3%), Europe (5.3%), Latin America (1.9%) and other countries (4.4%).

Trade

Exports

Canadian exports of aluminum products were valued at $13.0 billion in 2018, an increase of $300 million over 2017. Of this amount:

  • $8.3 billion was used for unwrought alloyed and non-alloyed aluminum
  • $1.2 billion was used for aluminum waste and scrap
  • $695 million was used for aluminum plates, sheets and strip

The United States was Canada's largest export destination for aluminum products, accounting for 83.2% of total aluminum export trade, followed by the Netherlands (4.7%), Mexico (3.3%), Japan (3.0%) and China (1.9%).

Imports

Canada's total imports of aluminum products were valued at $8.4 billion in 2018, an increase of $1.3 billion over 2017. Approximately 54.3% of imports were semi-fabricated and fabricated aluminum products.

Imports came from the United States (43.8%), Brazil (23.0%), China (11.0%), Australia (7.5%) and Germany (1.7%).

Prices

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

Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2009–2018

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This line graph shows the monthly average price of aluminum in US dollars per tonne from 2009 to 2018, taken from the IndexMundi exchange. In 2018, the average monthly prices were: January, $2,210; February, $2,182; March, $2,069; April, $2,255; May, $2,300; June, $2,238; July, $2,082; August, $2,052; September, $2,026; October, $2,030; November, $1,939 and December, $1,920. The 2018 yearly average price was $2,108.

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, 2018 (p)
    • Wood MacKenzie, 2017

Production

  • Canadian refinery and smelters, estimated capacity, 2018
    • Natural Resources Canada; company websites
  • Canadian production of primary aluminum, 2009–2018 (p)
    • Natural Resources Canada; Wood MacKenzie

International context

  • World production of bauxite ore, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of alumina, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World production of primary aluminum, 2009–2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • World reserves of bauxite ore, by country, 2018 (p)
    • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Primary aluminum demand, by region, 2018 (p)
    • Wood Mackenzie

Trade

  • Natural Resources Canada; Statistics Canada
    • Mineral trade includes ores, concentrates, and semi- and final-fabricated mineral products

Prices

  • Aluminum prices, monthly average, 2009–2018
    • IndexMundi