QAL on track for bright future as efficiency push continues
GLADSTONE'S Queensland Alumina Ltd is set for a healthy future that is capable of producing alumina for the next 40 years at least as the business continues to improve efficiency,
Despite an organisational restructure in 2012 which saw 130 positions cut from QAL, the plant's biggest setback was from last year's floods.
But QAL general manager Mike Dunstan said Yarwun and QAL had recovered well and were both a key part of Rio Tinto's aluminium strategy.
"The future looks sound for us as long as we work safely and get the environment right, and we've got to work on our efficiencies," he said.
"For us it's business as usual."
Mr Dunstan said that moving from one phase to the next was about efficiency - collecting the bauxite, refining it into alumina and smelting it to aluminium.
"You measure everything," he said. "You don't know exactly how much alumina is in every tonne of bauxite, but every step of the way is measured as accurately as we possibly can."
He said most of the opportunities for efficiency came from the employees.
"Most of our efficiency gains have come about because people have come up with good ideas or they operate and plan properly to procedure, and when we do that they're as slick as they come.
"When we don't do that we make mistakes and that's where it costs us."
He said the current global market had been positive for the refinery, because the high American dollar meant QAL got more Australian dollars for every tonne it sold.
Aluminium is one of the most important and widely used metals in the transport, construction, packaging and electrical sectors.
In transport, aluminium is used in cars (engine blocks, cylinder heads, transmission housings and body panels), trucks and buses (sheet and plate for bodies), in railway stock and in aircraft.
In construction, aluminium is used in sheet products for roofing and wall cladding, in extrusions for windows and doors, and in castings for builders' hardware.
In packaging, aluminium is used in the form of alloy sheet for beverage can bodies and tops, as foil for household and commercial wrap, and in manufactured packaging products such as cartons for fruit juice and packaging for pharmaceuticals.
In the electrical sector, aluminium is used in the form of wire, which is normally reinforced with steel to form cables.