It seems the US is capable of producing high-quality, purified aluminum for military needs at the drop of a hat, despite the recent aluminum trade issue.
The aluminum investigation into China’s imports, begun by the Trump administration in April, was ordered to protect America’s national security against the market’s surplus of cheap aluminum. Reportedly, the investigation was opened in part to determine whether the country’s smelters could work at a production rate to satisfy wartime requirements.
In that scenario, an extra $25 million would need to be put towards fractional crystallization, the ideal way for the US to remove impurities from aluminum. It’s pricey, but it may be necessary in the coming decades.
Surprisingly, under 1% of domestic aluminum in the US is used by the Defence Department, and the country’s stores for the military metal comes out to 75,000 metric tonnes, which could last 2.5 years. On top of this, 117,000 tons are produced annually in the US alone, although Century Aluminum Company in Hawesville is the only high-purity manufacturer within its borders.
Fractional crystallization may sound advanced and expensive, but it would only exceed the costs of normal smelting by about 2%. Primary aluminum now costs $1,906 per ton, while the purified version costs $2,548 per ton. With a reasonable difference, the US will likely opt for the pricier option to protect themselves against any possible war-related occurrences.