Rare and valuable minerals

Which country produces the most bauxite?

Bauxite is a rock, the most important source of aluminum. The material received its name in honor of the area where it was discovered and first described in 1821 by geologist Pierre Berthier – the commune of Les Baux in the south of France. Bauxite is an aluminum ore in the form of a stony or clay-like rock, homogeneous or layered. The main chemical component is alumina (Al2O3). In addition to it, the composition includes iron oxide (Fe2O3) and silica (SiO2), and the latter deteriorates the properties of the ore. Also, as impurities, the rock may contain iron hydroxides and silicates, oxides of titanium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and others. The mineral was formed as a result of lateritic weathering of alkaline, acidic, and sometimes basic rocks or the deposition in sea and lake basins of significant quantities of alumina contained in transported molecular solutions and sols.

Place of Birth

  • Indonesia,
  • India,
  • Vietnam,
  • Brazil,
  • Australia,
  • Guinea.

Almost 6/2 of the world’s bauxite reserves are concentrated in these 3 countries. At the same time, the leaders in rock production are India, China and Australia.

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In Russia, bauxite deposits were discovered in the Urals, Leningrad region, Komi Republic, Kemerovo region and on the Kola Peninsula.

The physical properties of bauxite can vary significantly. Thus, the structure can be either dense, with an earthy fracture, or porous, with a rough cellular fracture. Often the ground mass contains rounded bodies, creating an oolitic structure.

The color of the rock is equally diverse: from white to dark red, although brown and brick are the most common.

Due to this heterogeneity, bauxite is difficult to identify visually, which complicates the search for deposits.

Classification

By origin, bauxites are divided into residual (lateritic), sedimentary (redeposited) and mixed (when both processes participated in the formation of the rock).

Depending on the predominance of the rock-forming mineral, monohydroxide (from diaspore, boehmite), trihydroxide (from gibbsite) and mixed (diaspore-boehmite, boehmite-gibbsite) bauxites are distinguished. The classification may be more narrow: kaolinite-boehmite, chamosite-boehmite, chamosite-gibbsite, goethite-chamosite-boehmite, gibbsite-kaolinite bauxite.

By structure, minerals can be:

  • clastic (conglomerate, gravel, sandstone, pelitic),
  • concretionary (leguminous, oolitic).

Bauxite deposits are divided into platform areas (associated with horizontal continental deposits) and geosynclinal areas (associated with coastal marine deposits).

Production and drilling

In most cases, bauxite mining is carried out using the open-pit method: special equipment removes the ore layer by layer and sends it for further processing. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes bauxite lies at considerable depth and mines are built to extract it. Thus, the deepest mine in Russia (Cheremukhovskaya-Glubokaya, 1550 m) is used for bauxite mining.

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Delta or Impulse hydraulic rotators are suitable for drilling clayey bauxite (III soil category in terms of drillability). The choice of augers depends on the specific drilling conditions: both abrasive and rock augers S4 and S5 or abrasive/permafrost augers S6 and PR can be used.

For drilling bauxite, which belongs to category IV soils, the same hydraulic rotators are used, but the choice of augers is slightly smaller: rock S4, abrasive or rocky S5, abrasive, frozen or rocky S6 and PR.

Diaspore bauxites are classified as soil category VIII in terms of drillability, which means that auger drilling is not used to work with them.

Application

Bauxite is used as a flux in ferrous metallurgy (this improves the quality of steel), as well as in the production of electrocorundum, paints and sorbents. Fire-resistant quick-hardening cements are made from ore with a low iron content. But first of all, bauxite ore is used to produce silica, which is the most important raw material for the aluminum industry.

In addition to aluminum, iron, titanium, gallium, zirconium, chromium, niobium and rare earth elements are mined from the rock. Bauxite, which is rich in iron oxide, can be considered iron ore.

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Bauxite is the main ore for aluminum production. The formation of deposits is associated with the process of weathering and transfer of material, which, in addition to aluminum hydroxides, also contains other chemical elements. Metal extraction technology provides a cost-effective industrial production process without generating waste.

Characteristics of ore mineral

The name of the mineral raw material for aluminum mining comes from the name of the area in France where the deposits were first discovered. Bauxite consists of aluminum hydroxides, and contains clay minerals, iron oxides and hydroxides as impurities.

In appearance, bauxite is stony, and less often clay-like, the rock is homogeneous or layered in texture. Depending on the form of occurrence in the earth’s crust, it can be dense or porous. Minerals are classified according to their structure:

  • clastic – conglomerate, gravel, sandstone, pelitic;
  • concretionary – legumes, oolitic.

The bulk of the rock in the form of inclusions contains oolitic formations of iron or alumina oxides. Bauxite ore is usually brown or brick in color, but there are deposits of white, red, gray, and yellow shades.

The main minerals for ore formation are:

  • diaspora;
  • hydrogoethite;
  • goethite;
  • boehmite;
  • gibbsite;
  • kaolinite;
  • ilmenite;
  • aluminohematite;
  • calcite;
  • siderite;
  • mica.

There are bauxites of platform, geosynclinal and oceanic islands. Aluminum ore deposits were formed as a result of the transport of weathering products of rocks, followed by their deposition and the formation of sediment.

Industrial bauxite contains 28-60% alumina. When using ore, the ratio of the latter to silicon should not be lower than 2-2,5.

Deposits and extraction of raw materials

The main raw materials for industrial aluminum production in the Russian Federation are bauxite, nepheline ores and their concentrates, concentrated on the Kola Peninsula.

Bauxite deposits in Russia are characterized by low quality raw materials and difficult mining and geological mining conditions. There are 44 explored deposits within the state, of which only a quarter are exploited.

The main production of bauxite is carried out by JSC Sevuralboxytruda. Despite the reserves of ore raw materials, the supply of processing enterprises is uneven. For 15 years, there has been a shortage of nephelines and bauxites, which leads to the import of alumina.

The world’s bauxite reserves are concentrated in 18 countries located in the tropical and subtropical zones. The location of the highest quality bauxite is confined to areas of weathering of aluminosilicate rocks in humid conditions. It is in these areas that the bulk of the global supply of raw materials is located.

The largest reserves are concentrated in Guinea. Australia leads the world in the extraction of ore raw materials. Brazil has 6 billion tons of reserves, Vietnam – 3 billion tons, India’s high-quality bauxite reserves amount to 2,5 billion tons, Indonesia – 2 billion tons. The bulk of the ore is concentrated in the depths of these countries.

Bauxite is mined by open and underground methods. The technological process of processing raw materials depends on its chemical composition and involves stage-by-stage execution of work.

At the first stage, alumina is formed under the influence of chemical reagents, and at the second, the metal component is extracted from it by electrolysis from a molten fluoride salt.

Several methods are used to form alumina:

  • sintering;
  • hydrochemical;
  • combined.

The application of methods depends on the concentration of aluminum in the ore. Low quality bauxite is processed in a complex manner. The mixture of soda, limestone and bauxite obtained as a result of sintering is leached with a solution. The metal hydroxide formed as a result of chemical treatment is separated and subjected to filtration.

Application of mineral resource

The use of bauxite in various branches of industrial production is due to the versatility of the raw material in its mineral composition and physical properties. Bauxite is an ore from which aluminum and alumina are extracted.

The use of bauxite in ferrous metallurgy as a flux in the smelting of open-hearth steel improves the technical characteristics of the product.

In the production of electrocorundum, the properties of bauxite are used to form a super-resistant, fire-resistant material (synthetic corundum) as a result of smelting in electric furnaces with the participation of anthracite as a reducing agent and iron filings.

The mineral bauxite with a low iron content is used in the manufacture of fire-resistant, quick-hardening cements. In addition to aluminum, iron, titanium, gallium, zirconium, chromium, niobium and TR (rare earth elements) are extracted from ore raw materials.

Bauxite is used for the production of paints, abrasives, and sorbents. Ore with a low iron content is used in the manufacture of refractory compounds.

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