Aluminum Industry

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Aluminum Industry


a branch of nonferrous metallurgy, combining enterprises in the processing of metallic aluminum. The aluminum industry includes the following basic manufacturing activities, representing the overall industrial cycle: the extraction of aluminum ores; the production of alumina (aluminum oxides) from ores or concentrates, electrodes and anode material, and fluoride salts (cryolite, aluminum and sodium fluorides); the smelting of metallic aluminum; and the production of semifinished goods from it.

Aluminum occupies the first place with respect to production and consumption of nonferrous materials. The most important users are branches of aviation, electrical, automotive, and a number of other machine construction and metalworking industries, as well as building construction, railroad transportation, and the chemical and food industries. The majority of developed countries are striving to create their own domestic aluminum industries. In 1900 aluminum was produced in six countries, prior to World War II in 16, and in 1967 in 30 countries. Bauxite is the primary aluminum ore, the raw material for obtaining alumina for subsequent conversion into aluminum. In order to produce one ton of metallic aluminum, 1,930 kg of alumina, 50 kg of fluoride salts, 550 kg of carbon electrodes (anode material or baked anodes), and up to 18,000 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy are required. The aluminum industry is one of the most energy-intensive branches of industry; therefore, one of the most important conditions for its development is the availability of power sources for cheap electrical energy.

A large aluminum industry originated during the second half of the 1890’s after the development of methods for the production of aluminum by means of electrolysis of the molten cryolite-alumina and for the production of aluminas from bauxites. In prerevolutionary Russia, despite the leading role of Russian scientists in the development of theoretical approaches to the production of aluminum and the large requirements in the country for this metal, there was no domestic aluminum industry. The creation in the USSR of a strong and highly developed aluminum industry is the result of one of the outstanding achievements of socialist industrialization. The plan for electrification of Soviet Russia (GOELRO), developed in 1920 through the initiative and under the leadership of V. I. Lenin, was of significant importance in the creation of the Soviet aluminum industry.

The first hydroelectric power station, on the Volkhov River, equipped under this plan and put into operation in 1926 was the energy basis for the first aluminum factory in the USSR—the Volkhov plant, started in 1932. Using the energy of the Dnieper hydroelectric station, the Dnieper aluminum plant was started in 1933. Many investigation’s and pilot-run trials in the production of alumina and aluminum preceded the construction of those plants. In the early 1930’s the efforts of Soviet scientists and engineers led to the development of industrial processing methods for the production of alumina from high silicon Tikhvin bauxites, which had been discovered in 1916 by P. N. Timofeev—namely a method of firing bauxites with soda and limestone developed under the guidance of A. A. Iakovkin, and a method of electro-smelting while producing slags containing calcium aluminate developed by A. N. Kuznetsov and E. I. Zhukovskii. Pilot-run tests to obtain aluminum from domestic materials by means of electrolysis were performed in 1929 in Leningrad at the Krasnyi Vybor-zhets plant under the guidance of P. P. Fedot’ev. An experimental aluminum plant was started in 1930 in Leningrad; it played an important role in the preparation of qualified personnel for the domestic aluminum industry. In 1931 a research institute for the aluminum industry was or ganized in Leningrad, subsequently named the All-Union Scientific Research and Design Institute of the Aluminum, Magnesium, and Electrode Industry (VAMI). Simultaneously with the start of the first aluminum plants the production of fluoride salts was organized at the Polevskoi cryolite plant in the Urals, while the Moscow electrode plant was equipped for the production of anodes and carbon liner blocks in 1933. In 1938 the Tikhvin alumina plant went into operation and in 1939 the Ural’sk aluminum plant, one of the largest in the USSR, which had as its raw material base the high quality northern Ural bauxite discovered in 1931 by N. A. Karzhavin, began operations.

Table 1. The production of aluminum in capitalist countries (thousands of tons)1
1 From data of the periodical Revue de I’aluminium, 1967, no. 355
2 All of Germany up to 1943
USA .....................2.321.4148.4834.8371.9651.81,827.22,693.6
Canada ..................6.475.0449.1176.1360.0690.6807.9
France ...................0.915.552.546.547.860.7235.2363.5
Japan ...................32.8149.73.224.8131.2335.1
Norway ..................1.531.123.516.747.1165.4330.9
West Germany2............0.71.4195.1242.00.727.8168.9243.9
Italy .....................0.834.247.210.936.883.6127.8
Australia .................12.092.0
India ....................
Switzerland ..............
Spain ....................
Cameroon ...............43.948.2
Greece ..................36.2
Sweden ..................

During the years of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 the Soviet aluminum industry suffered considerable damage. Operations were suspended at the Volkhov and Dnieper aluminum plants, Tikhvin alumina plant, and Dnieper electrode plant. The Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) and the Soviet government took steps to increase and create new capacity for the aluminum industry in the Urals and in Siberia. In 1943 the Novokuznetsk aluminum plant was started, and on the day of victory over fascist Germany (May 9, 1945) the Bogoslovsk aluminum plant in the Urals put out its first production. During the war years the Soviet aluminum industry significantly increased its prewar production levels.

After the war the increase of operating plants and the construction of new plants was undertaken along with the rehabilitation of enterprises which had suffered from the German fascist occupation. Operations were started by aluminum plants in the Northwest USSR (Kandalaksha in 1951 and Nadvoitsy in 1954) and in Transcaucasia (Kanaker in 1950 and Sumgait in 1955), and in 1959 the Volgograd aluminum plant came into operation. The USSR was the first in the world to introduce the practice of comprehensive conversion of nepheline raw material into alumina, soda products, and cement, which led to a significant increase of the raw material base of the aluminum industry. Operating with this type of raw material are the Volkhov and Pikalevo plants in the Leningrad region, and it will also be used by the Achinsk alumina combine now being built in Siberia. From 1959 to 1965 the production of aluminum in the USSR more than doubled.

The aluminum industry in Siberia is developing rapidly on the basis of cheap electrical energy from large hydroelectric power stations and also from thermoelectric power stations operating on local fuels. Large aluminum plants are being equipped here and are also being enlarged: the plants in Irkutsk, Krasnoiarsk, and Bratsk. In Kazakh stan, based on Turgai bauxites, the Pavlodar aluminum plant began producing alumina in 1964. In the Azerbaijan SSR the production process was initiated in 1966 for a new type of multipurpose raw material—alunites.

The main trends of technical progress in the aluminum industry are the comprehensive processing and introduction into the industry of new types of raw materials containing alumina; the intensification, specialization, and streamlining of production; the increase of capacity of basic technical plants; and the mechanization and automation of production processes.

The Soviet aluminum industry is in a very favorable position for further rapid development, specifically in the regions of Siberia and Kazakhstan. In accord with the directives of the Twenty-third Congress of the CPSU (1966), the five-year plan for development of the national economy of the USSR from 1966 to 1970 includes an increase in the production of aluminum by 1.9–2.1 times.

The aluminum industry has also reached a significant stage of development in other socialist countries: Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, China, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Large reserves of high quality bauxite are located within the borders of Yugoslavia, and also of Hungary, which supplies Czechoslovakia with this raw material and also supplies alumina to Poland and the German Democratic Republic.

The aluminum industry in the capitalist countries is one of the largest branches of their respective economies (see Table 1).

In 1967 the production of aluminum was as follows: USA, 2,966,300 tons; Canada, 874,000 tons; Japan, 382,100 tons; Norway, 371,000 tons; France, 361,200 tons; West Germany, 252,900 tons; Italy, 127,700 tons; India, 96,400 tons; Australia, 92,000 tons; Spain, 80,500 tons; Austria, 78,400 tons; Switzerland, 72,300 tons; Greece, 71,600 tons; Cameroon, 48.300 tons; England, 39,100 tons; and Sweden, 33,500 tons.

More than 60 percent of the production of aluminum takes place in the USA and Canada. In Western Europe the aluminum industry has been developed in France, Norway, West Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. The aluminum industry is rapidly developing in Japan. Since World War II foreign monopolies have been exploiting and building aluminum industry plants in some developing countries: alumina plants in Guinea, Jamaica, Surinam, and Guyana; aluminum plants in Cameroon and Ghana.


Fedot’ev, P. P. Elektroliz v metallurgii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. Mashovetz, V. P. Elektrometallurgiia aliuminiia, part 1. Leningrad-Moscow, 1938.
Beliaev, A. I. Metallurgiia legkikh metallov (Obshchii kurs), 5th ed. Moscow, 1962.
Baimakov, Iu. V., and M. M. Vetiukov. Elektroliz rasplavlennykh solei. Moscow, 1966.
Gus’kov, V. M. Elektroliticheskoe rafinirovanie aliuminiia. Moscow, 1945.
Lainer, A. I. Proizvodstvo glinozema: Uch. posobie. Moscow, 1961.
Chalykh, E. F. Proizvodstvo elektrodov. Moscow, 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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