ZHENGZHOU, China : China, the world's top aluminium producer, should increase its domestic mining of the raw material bauxite to curb its rising reliance on foreign resources, an industry official said on Thursday.
Bauxite is refined into alumina, which is used to make aluminium metal.
"China's bauxite imports are highly concentrated in Guinea, Australia and Indonesia. We are seeing lower grade of domestic resources and gradual decline of self sufficiency," Meng Jie, a deputy secretary general of the aluminium branch at the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association (CNIA).
GRAPHIC - China's 2022 sources of bauxite imports by country
"Reliance on overseas resources has been on an uptrend and we expect it to go up further," Meng told delegates at the SMM International Aluminium Summit in China's Zhengzhou city.
China's reliance on bauxite imports grew to 55 per cent in 2022, from 2.8 per cent in 2002, Meng's presentation showed.
GRAPHIC - China's reliance on overseas bauxite
Across the globe, governments are focused on securing strategic minerals, especially those such as aluminium that are needed for the transition to a lower carbon economy.
As well as procuring the raw materials, they are also trying to command the economic benefits of processing them, an area in which China has been dominant.
Efforts to protect resources have led to export bans, with a major tin producing region in Myanmar announcing a mining ban earlier this week, while Indonesia banned nickel ore exports in 2020 and will stop exporting bauxite from June.
China's overseas alumina capacity is 5.65 million tonnes per year, with 10 million tonnes more planned in Guinea and a further 4 million tonnes in Indonesia.
Last year, China imported 125 million tonnes of bauxite, up 16.8 per cent year-on-year. Just over half came from Guinea, while 27 per cent came from Australia and 15 per cent from Indonesia, China's customs data showed.
"We need to explore with a long-term plan to make sure we take good advantage of the resources," Meng said, adding that China should also set up strategic reserves of bauxite and coordinate overseas development.