ON JUNE 9 1967 the Holtefjell, a merchant ship loaded with 35,586 tonnes of QAL alumina, set sail for the north-west coast of the United States.
It was the first shipment exported from Queensland Alumina and yesterday, QAL officially celebrated 50 years since the journey began.
The Rio Tinto/Rusal joint venture remains one of the world's biggest aluminium refineries, employing 800 staff and 200 contractors, of which 98% call Gladstone home.
QAL's story began after bauxite deposits were discovered near Weipa in 1950. The Queensland Government prepared to process the bauxite into alumina then smelt into aluminium, all in Queensland.
By 1963, 11 different sites were being considered to build an alumina refinery, but it was Gladstone's combined advantages of rail and a deep water harbour that eventually won out.
Construction started in 1964 at Parson's Point and in 1966, Queensland Alumina Ltd was officially opened.
Since 1967, QAL has produced 143 million tonnes of smelter grade alumina.
This week, more than 2000 people have joined in a range of activities to celebrate the milestone, including 700 who toured the refinery on Sunday.
The head of Rusal's alumina and bauxite division, Yakov Itskov travelled from Russia for yesterday's official celebration.
He told guests that alumina processed in Gladstone travels 4900km by sea before being sent overland, sometimes up to 5800km, to smelters in Siberia.
Significantly for Gladstone, Mr Itskov said he was confident of smelting low-emissions aluminium in Siberian smelters for another 50 years.
Read the full story in The Weekend Observer.