Bauxite

Bauxite is named after the French village of Les Baux-de-Provence, where it was first recognized as an aluminium ore. Bauxite is the world's main source of aluminium.

Aluminium in the home

One of the most popular uses of aluminium is in packaging. If you look around your kitchen you will find lots of aluminium products such as foil/food wrap, food trays, bottle tops and drinks cans.

You may also find it used in your utensils and electrical goods such as kettles, saucepans, toasters and refrigerators. Your dining room or garden furniture may also be made from aluminium.

Aluminium is preferred for these products because it is light, strong, durable, easy to clean and it won't rust.

Aluminium in the garage

Look in your shed or garage and some of your sports equipment such as bike frames, bike wheels or golf club heads may be made of aluminium... and a few makes of expensive cars use aluminium in their body construction.

What does it look like?

Bauxite sample


In your shopping basket

Aluminium: foil, furniture, bicycles, cars and computers

Industrial uses or around the home

Bauxite is used in the production of aluminium metal for aeroplanes and cars.
Bauxite has various minor non-metallurgical uses, such as cements, abrasives and refractory applications, paints, etc.

Key facts

Colour

The colour of bauxite can vary from off-white to greyish, yellow or reddish-brown.

Rock or mineral?

Bauxite is a mixture of several minerals so is usually classified as a rock.

Hard or soft?

Bauxite is typically soft enough to be scratched with your fingernail.

Do we need to recycle aluminium?

Yes, compared with the production of primary aluminium, recycling of aluminium products needs as little as 5 per cent of the energy and emits only 5 per cent of the greenhouse gas.

Where is it mined?

Map of mines for bauxite

Fun facts

About ten billion aluminium drink cans are produced in the UK each year, which is an awful lot of soft drinks, beer and cider.

Activity

There are a few ways to determine whether a piece of metal is aluminium or steel:

  • colour or ‘tint ’ — steel is a darker grey colour while aluminium is typically a lighter, almost white, shiny metal
  • density — aluminium is a lower density than steel making it feel less heavy
  • magnetic — aluminium is not magnetic
  • sparks — steel will spark when rubbed against an abrasive material whereas aluminium does not
  • oxidation vs rust — aluminium does not rust in the same way as steel. Iron and steel rust when they come into contact with water and oxygen, producing reddish flakes that peel off its surface.

Why not do a simple test such as the BBC Bitesize steel rusting experiment?