Aluminium industry must slash production costs, raise output, says Union Mines Secretary

Business State

BHUBANESWAR, JAN 31

The Indian aluminium industry must slash production costs and raise output to tackle the global downturn, Union Mines Secretary Anil Mukim said today.

“While the demand is on the rise, the continuous downturn in international aluminium market and increasing cost of production are matters of concern,” Mukim said at the opening of the International Conference on Aluminium (INCAL)-2019 here.

Stressing that the focus should be on reduction of cost, Mukim said since power constitutes 40 per cent of the production cost, cutting down on energy consumption is the key to make the aluminium sector competitive.

State-of-the-art technology in smelting and improved operational practices in pot management are some of the other areas that need the attention of aluminium producers, he said.

Noting that India produces around 3.4 million tonne of aluminium and consumes about 3.6 million tonne, he said the demand in the country is likely to get doubled in five years.

Referring to refining of bauxite to produce alumina, the mines secretary said, “We need to increase the capacity of production of alumina in the country to meet the growing demand.”

Stating that one tonne of production of alumina leads to output of 1.5 tonne of red mud, he said there is need to convert this waste into wealth.

Red mud contains 25 per cent to 30 per cent of iron.

“Therefore, the aluminium industry needs to work on research and development to develop appropriate technology for extracting iron from the red mud and on a commercial scale,” he said.

In order to boost bauxite reserve, steps should be taken for using low-grade bauxite as well as developing technology to extract alumina from Partially Laterite Khondalite (PLK), which are now being taken out as overburdens and used for mine filing, Mukim said.

Noting that India is endowed with rich bauxite deposits of about 3.8 billion tonne, he said only 17 per cent of it has been explored, and that offers huge opportunities for exploration.

Mukim further said that aluminium can be recycled as it consumes only 15 per cent of the energy requirement of smelting.

“While recycling is environment-friendly, it also helps in containing cost. Cost of scrap and its proper processing need to be taken up by aluminium producers. This will help in developing a circular economy,” he said.

Rising costs can also be handled by extending the value chain and encouraging downstream units, he said.

At least 75 per cent of the ingot produced in the country needs to be processed in downstream units located around the mother plant, Mukim said, adding, this will create employment opportunities.

He also said that since the scope and requirement of high-end products in aerospace, railways, defence and other areas are going to increase manifold, efforts should be made to produce more of such materials.

Speaking at the four-day INCAL-2019, Aluminium Association of India (AAI) Chairman and state-run NALCO CMD Dr. Tapan Kumar Chand said the mega event is showcasing the latest technologies and advancement, and has a three-pronged strategy to send across a strong message to the stakeholders.

“At the international level, we are aiming to project aluminium as the futuristic metal; at the national level, we are committed to take steps to increase domestic consumption, as there is tremendous scope, and at the state level, project mineral-rich Odisha as the aluminium capital of India,” Chand said.

Vedanta Ltd. CEO (Aluminium and Power) Ajay Dixit said, India can evolve as the nation of choice for the global aluminium industry. “While aluminium sector contributes 1.9 per cent to our manufacturing GDP currently, it can contribute almost 10 per cent to the GDP in the next 3-5 years.”

More than 850 delegates, including 300 foreign participants from 20 countries, are taking part in the global summit, organised by AAI, under the aegis of the Ministry of Mines.

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