Foiling the Aluminum Industry

Glenn Switkes
Friday, August 26, 2005

A Toolkit for Communities, Activists, Consumers, and Workers

The aluminum industry is the world’s most energy–intensive industry, and also one of the most polluting industries on the planet. With the industry increasingly looking for cheap energy in developing countries to fuel new smelters and to expand already–existing aluminum operations, pressure has mounted for construction of large hydroelectric dams to provide subsidized energy to the multinational operations.

International Rivers has published this toolkit, "Foiling the Aluminum Industry – A Toolkit for Communities, Activists, Consumers, and Workers" to provide information on the impacts of the global aluminum industry, as well as a broad set of references to put readers in touch with organizations which have addressed the aluminum industry and its operations. Issues such as environmental and social impacts, impacts of the industry’s energy demand, economic issues, consumer responsibility and strategies for confronting the aluminum industry are discussed in this new publication.

From the toolkit:

The conversion of bauxite, or aluminum ore to primary aluminum is also the world’s most energy-intensive industrial process, and aluminum producers use more electricity than any other industry. The aluminum industry is also a significant contributor to global warming.

Two years ago, a series of plans for projects involving the construction of hydroelectric dams and aluminum processing plants came to the attention of International Rivers. The projects had several things in common. They involved building large dams in ecologically-sensitive regions to generate electricity for powering aluminum plants. They were being sited in countries where aluminum is not consumed in great quantities, and where project benefits would be enjoyed principally by consumers in the US, Europe, and Japan, while the impacts would be left behind. In most cases, the processing plants were slated for construction in countries far from the source of the raw materials needed to produce aluminum, such as bauxite ore and aluminum oxide (alumina), and the feasibility of the plants stemmed from their access to cheap energy and low-paid workers. Finally, the enormous aluminum complexes were being proposed and implanted by some of the world’s most powerful transnational corporations, companies that in their press releases purport to be models for sustainability.

Other Aluminum Resources on the Web

General information:

Industry Associations:


International Financial Institutions:


Aluminum Recycling: