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Orbite Aluminae Inc., a Montreal-based company with access to about 1 billion tonnes of aluminous clay in Quebec’s Grande-Vallé region, has successfully produced alumina from red mud in a laboratory test. A patent is now pending, which Orbite officials expect will be approved within a year.

Red mud (also known as alumina waste) contains a variety of composites, including silica, titanium silica, calcium, and iron. This red mud waste is typically produced in quantities twice as high as alumina as an after-effect of refining, and is difficult to dispose of, thus causing issues for refineries who become bogged down with the mud during production and have no easy way of removing or reusing it.

Orbite’s innovative discovery has the potential to drastically change the industry, which has never been able to effectively dispose of red mud. The company plans to bring two new alumina plants online over the course of the next several years. The first may be ready as soon as the end of this year, and is expected to produce 1,000 tonnes per year of high-purity alumina beginning in 2013. The second plant is set to produce about 540,000 tonnes per year of smelter-grade alumina, as well as 180,000 tonnes of highly pure ferrous oxide, by 2014.

— American Metals Market

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Aluminum producers are facing possible market share losses if they cannot find ways to meet strict carbon dioxide emission standards. Oliver Bell, executive VP of rolled products at Norsk Hydro ASA said that aluminum, while a lightweight metal, is “still perceived as energy intensive,” which has done little to entice buyers to invest.

The difficulty is that scrap metal markets are becoming increasingly tighter, and scrap aluminum cannot sustain long-term growth. While the goal of higher environmental sustainability is a noble one, Bell said companies like his cannot rely solely on this industry practice, or they will never stay afloat. To this end, he and others in the industry are working to convince potential buyers of the advantages of aluminum, rather than solely promoting recycling.

Bell also noted that the life cycle of aluminum products differs from that of other metals: aluminum cans can be recycled and put back into use quickly, but aluminum used for buildings or automotive parts can take longer to reintegrate, as they have a longer life cycle. Therefore, companies must be aligned in their message: recycle where applicable, and continue to streamline primary production rate.

“We need an increased recycling rate and primary production rate,” said Bell.

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Quotes and overview from American Metals Market

Honda has released its May 2012 auto sales to the public, displaying strong sales gains and setting an all-time monthly sales record for its new Acura RDX. American Honda reported May U.S. sales of 133,997 units, an overall gain of 47.6 percent compared to May 2011. Acura reported U.S. May sales of 14,586 units, an overall increase of 62.1 percent compared to May 2011. Honda’s Civic sales were up more than 80 percent compared to May 2011, with a total of 33,490 Civics sold in May. Honda also set a new record for light truck sales, reporting a total of 25,186 CR-V units sold during the month, beating its previous record by 5,226.

Acura’s May report of 14,586 units sold was a gain of 62.1 percent, making this May Acura’s best month since December of 2010. The RDX had its best sales month to date, selling 3,301 units for a gain of 216.8 percent. The RDX is expected to keep its spot on the top of the compact luxury SUV segment moving into the summer.

Jeff Conrad, VP of Acura sales: “With the new RDX setting an all-time sales record this month, Acura went well beyond recovering from last year’s supply issues….Now, with the new ILX reaching dealerships across America, Acura is just beginning a great new hot streak.”

-Honda Press Release