History

The Bell Bay aluminium smelter holds a unique place in Tasmanian and Australian history, becoming the first aluminium smelter in the southern hemisphere when it began production on 23 September, 1955.

At a time when Tasmania was better known for its apples than large industry, the smelter commenced operation as a joint venture between the Australian and Tasmanian governments.  The venture was initiated primarily to overcome the difficulties of importing aluminium during wartime.

The smelter began operation as the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and was formed under the Australian Aluminium Act in 1944. Planning began in the 1940's and the ambitious construction project took more than six years to complete.

The Bell Bay site was chosen because of its deep water port facilities and Tasmania’s hydro electric generating capacity.

Comalco Industries Pty Limited (later to be named Rio Tinto Alcan) acquired the smelter in 1960 and over the decades through collaboration, innovation and investment, the operation has grown from just 1200 tonnes in its first year to around 180,000 per annum today.

Galleries

Browse Bell Bay Aluminium Through the years.