Australia said March 20 that it's banning exports of aluminum ores, including bauxite, and alumina to Russia, effective immediately.
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The ban will limit Russia's ability to produce aluminum, "a critical export for Russia," the ministry for foreign affairs said in a statement.
Aluminum is widely used in the automobile, aerospace, packaging, machinery and construction sectors, and Russia relies on Australia for nearly 20% of its alumina needs, it said.
Statistical data published by the Eurasian Economic Commission, the regulatory authority overseeing the customs union between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan, shows minor imports of aluminum ores and concentrates into Russia for 2021.
Last year, Russia imported 17,000 mt of aluminum ores and concentrates with 80% shipped from China and Turkey.
The Australian government says it will work closely with exporters and other groups that will be affected by the ban to find alternative sources.
The ban on aluminum input materials stands to affect Rio Tinto, which has mining assets in Australia and is a major producer of bauxite and aluminum, along with other minerals.
It also has a joint venture asset with major Russian aluminum producer Rusal: Rio Tinto owns 80% in Australian alumina refinery Queensland Alumina, in which Rusal holds 20%, according to the company websites.
Rio Tinto may not have shipped bauxites to Russia directly, but instead may have sold them to Rusal-owned Aughinish Alumina in Limerick, Ireland, which is Europe's largest alumina refinery, according to industry sources. It is not clear whether the new ban will affect the supply of raw materials to Aughinish, or whether the shipments there from Australia had been already suspended after Rio Tinto said March 10 it was cutting relationships with Russian businesses over the country's actions in Ukraine.
Rusal's spokesman was not immediately available outside business hours to comment on stockpiles at Aughinish and on whether the cessation of imports from Australia would affect its Russian operations.