Aluminum Mining in Canada: Everything You Need to Know

aluminum mining in Canada facts cover

Did you know that Canada is a global leader in aluminum production?! Aluminum is used in a full spectrum of applications including in many day-to-day consumer products. The lightweight metal is a crucial component in vehicles, planes, appliances, cans, kitchen utensils, smartphones, computers, beer kegs and window frames to name just a few examples.

Canada is currently the fourth-largest producer of primary aluminum (produced from mined ore) in the world. In 2020, approximately 28,800 Canadian jobs were directly or indirectly supported by the aluminum mining sector in Canada, with Canadian exports totalling $11.3 billion that same year.

Most aluminum mining in Canada is found in Quebec, where producers follow world-class environmental standards outlined by the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining initiative. Additionally, Canada’s exceptional performance on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) indices also shows why we are an ideal supplier of aluminum products for global markets.

Learn more about Canadian aluminum mining below, and be sure to check out more great facts on other minerals and metals as well!

12 Canadian Aluminum Mining Facts

Aluminum mining in Canada facts - Bauxite Ore

#1 - Canada produced approximately 3.12 million tonnes of primary aluminum in 2020. (Natural Resources Canada - NRC)

#2 - Canada exported $7.3 billion of primary aluminum in 2020, 83% of which was sent to the United States. (Aluminum Association of Canada - AAC)

#3 - As of 2020, the aluminum sector supported about 28,800 direct and indirect jobs across Canada. (AAC)

#4 - Aluminum represented 2% of the value of Canada's total merchandise exports in 2020. (AAC)

#5 - Canada was the world's fourth-largest primary aluminum producer following China (1), India (2), and Russia (3) as of 2020. (NRC)

#6 - By utilizing hydroelectricity and other technologies, Canadian aluminum producers have one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world compared to other large producers, with a world-leading average of 2 tons of CO2 equivalent per megatonne of production. (NRC, AAC)

#7 - As of 2020, Canadian aluminum miners had 10 active smelters: one in Kitimat, BC, and the other nine in Quebec. (NRC)

#8 - The Canadian aluminum industry directly employs more than 7,700 people in Quebec. (AAC)

#9 - Canada's aluminum industry brought $3.6 billion in local spending to Quebec in 2020. (AAC)

#10 - Canadian aluminum mining saw more than 17,000 jobs in Quebec in the processing industry and over 4,000 jobs in the equipment supply sector. (AAC)

#11 - Quebec is home to approximately 2,500 suppliers and 1,400 aluminum manufacturers. (AAC)

#12 – Aluminum accounted for 8% of Quebec's manufacturing merchandise exports in 2020 (AAC)

Where Is Aluminum Found in Canada?

Aluminum Mining Canada - Map - Natural Resources Canada

Aluminum Mining in Canada - Natural Resources Canada

Canada's aluminum smelters are mainly found in Quebec, with 10 out of 11 located within the province. The largest aluminum smelter in Canada is also in Quebec; the Alouette facility in Sept-Îles produces roughly 623,000 tonnes annually.

Kitimat, British Columbia is also home to an aluminum smelter. With a total contribution of over $842 million to the British Columbia economy, Rio Tinto's BC Works facility was one of the largest contributors to the province's manufacturing GDP in 2019.

What Is Aluminum Used For?

aluminum foil - uses of aluminum

Aluminum is known for being lightweight and durable, making it an ideal material to manufacture countless products. It is used in several everyday and industrial applications, including (but not limited to):

  • Motor vehicles
  • Kitchenware
  • Power lines
  • Medicine and food packaging
  • Furniture
  • Aircraft
  • Power lines
  • Spacecraft
  • Trains
  • Consumer electronics
  • Ships
  • High-rise buildings
  • Household and industrial appliances

what is aluminum used for

According to NRC, the most prominent uses of aluminum globally in 2020 were:

  • Construction: 25%
  • Automotive and transportation: 23%
  • Foil and packaging: 17%
  • Electrical engineering and electronics: 12%
  • Machinery and equipment: 11%
  • Consumer goods: 6%
  • Other applications: 6%

Aluminum mining in Canada and elsewhere around the globe is also here to stay. Projections show global aluminum demand may increase by nearly 40 per cent between 2020 to 2030.

According to a report by International Aluminum, electric vehicle production, renewable energy projects and urbanization within Asia are key growth drivers of demand.

For example, CRU analyst James Wren estimates that EVs use on average 30% more aluminum in production than internal combustion (ICE) vehicles. Additionally, as of 2020, aluminum accounted for more than 85 per cent of most solar panel components.

History of Canadian Aluminum Mining

Shawinigan Falls btw 1903-1920 - Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

Canada's aluminum industry began in Quebec, near Shawinigan Falls on the Saint-Maurice River. The Pittsburgh Reduction Company, known today as Alcoa, poured Canada's first ingot of aluminum in October of 1901.

Looking west, in 1951, Alcan started a $500 million project, the most substantial public-private partnership ever in Canada at the time near the Kitimat River. An aluminum smelter in Kitimat began production three years later in 1954.

Over the years, many major aluminum projects have been developed in Quebec. Public and private trust in the sector is evident through upgrades, expansions, and the Québec Aluminium Development Strategy 2015-2025.

Learn a more detailed past at the Aluminum Association of Canada's historical timeline.

Sustainable Aluminum Mining in Canada

Natural resources accounted for 15.5% of Canada's economy in 2020

Whether it's aluminum, potash, gold, or another mined substance, our country's mining standards are world-class, as shown through the Mining Association of Canada's Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative.

Launched in 2004, the TSM is a world-recognized sustainability standard that has been used as a framework to meet the needs of the respective jurisdictions in Finland, Argentina, Botswana, the Philippines, and Spain to name a few.

By utilizing hydroelectricity and other technology, Canadian aluminum producers have the lowest carbon footprint compared to other large producers. As a result, they have a world-leading average of 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per megatonnes of production -- that's something every Canadian should be proud of.

As demand continues to grow, it is clear that the most sustainable aluminum producers and exporters should be put up to the job – that means Canada!

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