Rio Tinto, Chalco, Glencore vie to mine bauxite in Australia

SYDNEY, April 24 Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:59am EDT

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SYDNEY, April 24 (Reuters) - Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto, China's Chalco and Swiss-based Glencore are among five companies short-listed by Australia to mine vast bauxite deposits in the country that have been left dormant for decades.

The three firms have each applied for leases to exploit bauxite deposits in the Aurukun district of Queensland state, where reserves are considered sufficient to support production of 6.5 million tonnes per year, the Queensland state government said.

The candidates, which also include Australian Indigenous Resources and Cape Alumina Consortium, have until mid-September to submit detailed mining proposals, according to a statement by Jeff Sweeney, Queensland's deputy premier.

Alcan of Canada, acquired by Rio Tinto in 2007, was stripped by the state government of leases on the Aurukun deposits in 2004 after failing to develop a mine over a 29-year period.

Chalco in 2007 agreed to develop the Aurukun reserves as part of a $2.5 billion alumina and aluminium-making project being considered at the time, but later scrapped it after the global financial crisis spread to commodities markets.

Bauxite imports into China have climbed to more than a third of consumption, driven by rapid growth in domestic alumina production and limited domestic supplies. It takes four tonnes of bauxite to make two tonnes of alumina and one tonne of aluminium.

Fiji, Jamaica, Guyana, Brazil, Guinea, Ghana, India and other parts of Australia already supply China with bauxite.

Aurukun is a predominantly Aboriginal community of about 1,000 people in the remote area of Cape York, near similar deposits currently mined by Rio Tinto.

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