Smelter Grade Alumina (SGA) is the precursor to produce aluminum and is conventionally extracted from bauxite using the Bayer Process. This process was invented in the 19th century and has essentially remained unchanged for the past 125 years. The Bayer process is inefficient and generates significant quantities of waste, known as red mud. Red mud is highly caustic, but contains up to 25% alumina, as well as other high-value materials, such as titanium, rare earths and rare metals.
This creates a significant opportunity for Orbite. Contrary to the Bayer process, our process extracts all value from the feedstock and generates little waste, which is inert. Extracting all this value will have a strong positive impact on the economics of our future SGA plants.
The process by which alumina is smelted into aluminum consumes significant amounts of electricity, typically representing some 35% of operating costs. Smelters therefore generally are located in regions with a relatively inexpensive energy supply, such as Québec, Canada. However, Québec has only one alumina producer, supplying less than 25% of the province’s consumption. Aluminum smelters therefore mainly depend on alumina imports from the tropics, with transportation having a significant impact on operating costs.
Orbite owns substantial aluminous deposits in the Canadian province of Québec. The Company’s flagship property in the Gaspé region, Québec, holds an indicated resource of approximately 1 billion tonnes of aluminous clay. An independent, NI 43-101 compliant geologist’s report by Jean-Guy Levaque, B.Sc.A., P.Eng., has confirmed the presence of a highly homogeneous aluminous clay deposit - an unusual and extensive rock formation - with an average grade of 23.13% alumina. By becoming a local alumina producer, Orbite will have an additional cost advantage on top of the already favourable plant economics.