Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition Page: 27
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By R. A. Heindl 2
N APOLEON III had tableware made of aluminum but he also recognized
that such a light metal had military potential and through financial
assistance encouraged experimental research on its production. Today
tableware and military applications represent only a small part of the total
The discovery of a commercial process for
the electrolytic recovery of aluminum, late in
the 19th century, opened a new chapter in the
world's industrial history. Growth of the pri-
mary aluminum industry in the United States
has been so rapid that the quantity produced
annually now exceeds that of any other non-
ferrous metal. Since 1955 aluminum produc-
tion in the United States has exceeded 1.5 mil-
lion tons annually. Aluminum is of great im-
portance in the aircraft industry, and efficient,
competitive operation of many other industries
requires a continued supply of the light metal.
The basic process for producing aluminum,
developed independently by Hall and H6roult
nearly 75 years ago, is by electrolysis of high-
purity aluminum oxide in a bath of molten
cryolite. Research in reduction cell design and
development of larger cells has led to econ-
omies in power and manpower requirements.
There has been much research on other proces-
ses for recovery of the metal, but none has
proved more economical.
Except for a few years immediately before
World War II the United States has been the
world's leading producer of aluminum and
accounted for more than 40 percent of world
output in 1958. The output of Canada, the
second largest producer, represented an addi-
tional 17 percent of the total. The capacity
of the domestic primary industry has always
been nearly equal to demand. For the past 10
years U. S. imports have accounted for an
average of 12 percent of the total supply of
crude and scrap aluminum; and 81 percent of
the bauxite used in 1958 was imported.
The recovery of secondary aluminum, from
1954 to 1958, averaged 16 percent of the ap-
parent consumption of primary and secondary
1 Italicized numbers in parentheses refer to items in the
bibliography at the end of this chapter. Alumina, bauxite,
and the recovery of alumina from nonbauxitic raw materials
are discussed in the Alumina and Bauxite Chapter.
4Assistant chief, Branch of Light Metals.
aluminum. New scrap is the source of nearly
80 percent of the secondary metal recovered.
The primary aluminum industry expanded
sharply under the impetus of World War II
and the Korean hostilities-partly with the aid
of Government funds and incentives. In 1940
there was one domestic primary aluminum
producer, by 1958 there were six, three of
which were completely integrated from the
mine to aluminum fabricating plants. Much
of the primary production is consumed in
semifabricating plants owned by the producers.
Since approximately 20 percent of the cost
of aluminum is electric energy, the aluminum
industry, has until relatively recent times, built
plants near sources of low-cost hydroelectric
power. However, since World War II, de-
mand for power in industrially developed
countries has increased sharply and competing
industries can pay more than the aluminum
industry for power. The domestic aluminum
industry turned first to hydroelectric power,
second to natural gas, then to lignite, and in
1957 new aluminum smelters were built near
large coal deposits. Aluminum producers in
many foreign countries have constructed plants
in relatively isolated and thinly populated
areas where hydroelectric power could be made
The progressive research, development, and
sales policies of the aluminum producers have
resulted in the displacement of many materials
from their historical market by aluminum.
The relatively stable price of aluminum has
been an important factor in the increased usage
of the metal. Industries which consume major
quantities of aluminum are: Building and con-
struction, transportation, consumer durables,
containers and packaging, electrical equip-
ment, and machinery and equipment. As ap-
plications for aluminum are developed and
current markets are expanded, production and
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United States. Bureau of Mines. Mineral Facts and Problems: 1960 Edition, report, 1960; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38790/m1/35/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.