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For about 90 years, aluminum has been produced in much the same way. Bauxite, the conventional aluminum ore, is refined into alumina. Alumina is then reduced in smelters to aluminum. This last stage, reducing alumina to aluminum, is particularly capital and energy intensive. Although large deposits of commercial grade bauxite are very common in many foreign countries, they are rare in the United States which consumes about 30 percent of the world's aluminum. However, the United States has plentiful nonbauxitic sources of aluminum which might be developed to help reduce raw material imports and reduce the shift of aluminum production capacity overseas, if successfully addressed by research and development policies. GAO reviewed the Bureau of Mines' metallurgy research and development program for nonbauxitic aluminum resources to see if it met these needs.

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