Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the surface of the earth, making up about 8 percent of the earth’s crust.
Although it was used in combination with other metals for many centuries, aluminum was not isolated until the nineteenth century.
That’s because aluminum is never found alone in nature, it always appears in ores containing other materials. The most important substance containing aluminum is bauxite, an ore that contains more than 40 percent aluminum compounds.
Aluminum is a useful metal because it conducts electricity well, insulates against heat, and resists rust and corrosion. Most important, it’s very light and workable. Aluminum can be made into sheets as thin as 1/5,000th of an inch.
About 73 million tons of bauxite are mined throughout the world each year. Australia leads all nations, producing more than a quarter of the world’s supply. But two small nations account for a large part of the aluminum supply.
The African nation of Guinea, roughly the size of Oregon, produces about 14 percent of the world’s bauxite. And the island nation of Jamaica in the Caribbean, though smaller than the state of Connecticut, produces an amazing 15 percent of the world’s bauxite.