The first stage of the project—expected to cost US$750 million—will result in annual production of about 1.4 million metric tons of alumina (aluminum oxide), the material that is smelted to yield aluminum. Production could be increased to more than 4 million tons per year depending on market conditions. Initial shipments from the refinery are expected in 2005.
Preparation of the site, some 10 kilometers northwest of the port city of Gladstone, will begin in December, with construction starting next year. The construction workforce should peak at 1,500 sometime in 2003, and more than 400 jobs associated with the refinery are expected to be created in the Gladstone area.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Leigh Clifford called the new refinery "a major development for both Queensland and Australia that will add further value to Australia's bauxite resources." Australia produces some 35 percent of the world's alumina, and about 40 percent of the world's bauxite—an ore that is refined to produce alumina.
Bechtel brings focused experience to its new assignment, having worked on numerous bauxite and alumina projects around the world. In Australia, Bechtel has been involved in several Comalco projects, including expansion of the Boyne Smelter in Queensland. Boyne now produces 490,000 metric tons of aluminum each year, making it one of the largest smelters of its kind in the world.