Bauxite extraction to shore up industry, foreign reserves

ISLAMABAD: Indigenous extraction and value addition of bauxite – the principal source of aluminium and gallium – can not only strengthen the industrial sector but also open a window of opportunities for Pakistan.
Talking to WealthPK, Yaqoob Shah, principal geologist at the Global Mining Company, Islamabad, member of the National Council for Marble & Granite and Minerals, and former general manager of geology at the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC), said, “Bauxite is a rock source formed in sedimentary rocks. It is the principal ore of alumina and has sizeable deposits in Khushab. Although the quarry is not well-developed at the government level, private companies or people are mining it. Its indigenous extraction and export after value addition can be a source of handsome foreign exchange for Pakistan, but the most important thing is to take a start with a proper framework.”
According to the World Integrated Trade Solutions’ data, Pakistan exported bauxite (aluminum ores and concentrates) worth US$448.77K and spent US$383.76 million on import of alumina and other articles in 2021.
Bauxite is the main raw material for extraction of alumina. Ninety percent of the total bauxite produced is consumed in the alumina industry. The market leaders in bauxite production include China, Australia, India, Brazil, and Guinea.
The global bauxite market size is expected to grow from US$15.60 billion in 2022 to US$18.15 billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7%.
Bauxite is widely used in the construction industry, refractories, abrasive production, cement industry, metallurgical processing, steel and petroleum industry, as a raw material in the road and building aggregates, alumina extraction, aircraft manufacturing industry, etc.
As a good electricity conductor, bauxite is also used in the electrical equipment and electricity transmission.
Geologist and miner Imran Babar told WealthPK, “Bauxite is found in almost all provinces of Pakistan in different quantities, but the Khushab district of Sargodha, Punjab is its main source.”
It can be said that the bauxite found in this area is suitable for extraction of aluminium in great quantities.
‘’In my opinion, with a small-sized Bayer process plant and an annual feed of about 1.2 million tons to it, a good quantity of alumina can be extracted. Bauxite is a source of not only alumina but also red mud, which is recovered as a by-product in the Bayer process and used for many other important industrial purposes,” Imran said.eign reserves