The first shipment of alumina, the feedstock for the Middle East’s first fully integrated aluminum manufacturing complex, at Ras Al Khair in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has departed Alcoa’s (NYSE:AA) Bunbury Port facility in Western Australia. The shipment of around 47,000 tonnes of alumina marks the latest milestone in the Ma’aden Alcoa aluminum joint venture’s establishment of the world’s largest and lowest-cost integrated aluminum complex. The $US10.8 billion project comprises a bauxite mine inland at Al-Baitha and, at Ras Al Khair on the east coast, an alumina refinery, aluminum smelter and rolling mill. The smelter and rolling mill will begin production in 2013 with the mine and refinery following in 2014. Alcoa will supply the joint venture’s smelter with alumina until the dedicated local mine and refinery come on stream. Ken Wisnoski, President of Alcoa Global Primary Products Growth, said that the supply of uniformly high quality alumina is essential for efficient operation of a smelter at any time, but even more so during the critical commissioning and early operational periods of a new smelter. “The ability to source alumina that can be relied on for its consistent quality, shipment after shipment, is a critical advantage to us as we work to bring this world-class smelter on line in 2013,” said Wisnoski. "It’s reassuring for us that Alcoa’s Western Australian operations are solidly behind us in this joint venture. The international team deployed on this project includes many Australians and it is pleasing to see that contribution now augmented by the supply of world-class feedstock for the new smelter.” Alan Cransberg, Managing Director Alcoa of Australia, said that these shipments are important for both Alcoa’s Australian operations as well as for Alcoa overall. ”We’re helping build a stronger, lower cost Alcoa. Australian mining and refining operators are regarded as being amongst the best in the world. Working collaboratively with their Saudi Arabian counterparts will expand their experience and capabilities even further. What they learn will have a direct benefit to Alcoa operations not only in Australia, but worldwide,” said Cransberg.