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The Bell Bay aluminium smelter at George Town, northern Tasmania, is unique in Australian history in that when it commenced production on September 23, 1955, it was the first smelter to produce aluminium in the southern hemisphere.

From Growing Apples to a Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter

At the time of the construction of the Bell Bay aluminium smelter in
Tasmania, the island state was best known for growing apples, rather than being a preferred site for the building of an industrial smelter. Tasmania was chosen because of the deep water port facilities at Bell Bay along with low price and reliable power generated by Tasmania's hydro electricity power supply. The need for such an industry became apparent during World War Two when the difficulties of importing aluminium became troublesome.

Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter Comes from a Wartime Shortage of Aluminium

The planning to build an aluminium smelter at Bell Bay began during the war and construction commenced following the passing of the 'Australian Aluminium Act 1944' in the Australian Parliament. It took over six years to complete the project. The Bell Bay aluminium smelter began producing aluminium under the management of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, a body formed in compliance with the Australian Aluminum Act in 1944.

Comalco Acquires Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter in 1960
The Bell Bay aluminum smelter was acquired by Comalco Industries Pty Limited in 1960, Comalco later changed its name to Rio Tinto Alcan and during the following years has increased its production capacity to 180,000 tonnes a year from an original 1,200 tonnes a year.

Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter Responsible for Creating Over 1,000 Jobs
The Bell Bay aluminium smelter, that is situated at the mouth of the Tamar River in northern Tasmania, 45 kilometres from the city of Launceston and five kilometres from the town of George Town, operates 24 hours a day for 365 days of the year. It employs around 500 personnel directly and around 60 full time contractors. On any one day there would be up to 100 contractors working on the site. The operation has been reported to be responsible for the employment of more than 1,000 workers either directly or indirectly through the flow on effect.

Bell Bay Aluminium Smelter Uses Three Ingredients; Alumina, Carbon and Electricity
The alumina, or aluminium oxide, required for the creating of aluminium, is shipped into Bell Bay from Rio Tinto Alcan's Yarwun alumina refinery and from Queensland Alumina in Gladstone. The alumina is unloaded on- site to be used in the production process that requires three ingredients; alumina, carbon and electricity. Carbon used in the process comes in the form of carbon blocks. These carbon blocks are baked on-site using petroleum coke imported into Australia from China and the USA along with liquid pitch that is imported from Korea, as well as anodes that are recycled from the smelting process. The electricity is supplied from the Tasmanian hydro electricity power grid that supplies the whole state. It is a predictable and constant supply that is competitively priced.

The smelting process takes place in big carbon lined steel furnaces known as reduction cells. A continuous electrical current is passed from the carbon blocks (anode) through an alumina-cryolite mixture to the carbon cathode cell lining. During this process the alumina reacts with the anode to form aluminium. When this occurs the molten aluminium drops to the bottom of the cell to be syphoned out and taken to a holding furnace where it is cast into various products.

Rio Tinto Alcan Australia

Rio Tinto Aluminium started business with Comalco in the mid 1950's. We brought Comalco in 2000 and the company was re-named Rio Tinto Aluminium in 2006. Alcan INC started in 1902 as a Northern Aluminum company, in the Canadian subsidiary of Pittsburgh Reduction company. They re-named the more


Rio Tinto Alcan Australia
123 Albert St
Brisbane, QLD 4000

GPO Box 153
Brisbane, QLD 4001



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