Expansion of current alumina plant may prove better option


THE exploitation of Aurukun bauxite deposits may result in the expansion of an existing alumina refinery rather than construction of a new plant.

Comments made by Queensland premier Peter Beattie this week suggest an expansion may be preferred due to the costs of constructing a new plant.

With part owners of Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL), Alcan, involved in the bidding process for the Aurukun deposits, it raises the possibility of an expansion at QAL.

Premier Beattie told mining industry leaders recently to expect some 'argy bargy' in the bidding process, with the state government nominating 'preferred' and 'optimal' bidding options.

While the preferred process would see the winning bidder build a new refinery with an output of at least 600,000 tonnes a year, an optimal bid would include either a new refinery or the expansion of an existing refinery.

This could favour Alcan's bid, with the expansion of QAL then a real possibility.

In April this year plans for a $1 billion expansion at QAL were resurrected when Russian company RUSAL bought 20 per cent stake in the plant.

A state government spokesperson said there was a competitive bid process under way for the Aurukun deposit. If Alcan is successful in securing this deposit it could put further expansion plans for QAL back on to the agenda.

Gladstone is one of five locations in Queensland identified as a potential site for the Aurukun deposits to be refined.

Recent media reports suggested that there could be flow on effects with an aluminium smelter possibly being constructed by the successful bidder.

QAL would not comment on the matter.

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