Since the early 1900s, the Darling Ranges in Western Australia had been thought to contain considerable deposits of bauxite. However, it was not until 1957, following exploration by Western Mining Corporation, these deposits were confirmed, prompting the formation of a joint-venture company to develop an integrated alumina industry. The Aluminium Company of America (now Alcoa Inc) became a partner and in 1961 the new venture was granted a 12,619 sq km bauxite mining lease in the Darling Ranges.

Production started in 1963 when operations began at the Jarrahdale bauxite mine and the Kwinana alumina refinery, both in Western Australia and the Point Henry aluminium smelter in Victoria.

The decision to locate the refinery at Kwinana was important for the economy of Western Australia and the people of the state took a great interest in the project's development. The construction site - 22 km south of Perth - became a major tourist attraction, attracting hundreds of sightseers each weekend.

The Kwinana refinery was officially opened in July 1963 and began production three months later, with bauxite from the Jarrahdale bauxite mine. The first shipment of alumina left the Kwinana port aboard the 'Lake Sorrel;' on 22 February 1964, bound for the Point Henry aluminium smelter. In March the same year, the first export shipment was despatched to Japan.

Kwinana refinery enjoyed spectacular growth in its first decade of operation. By 1973, the original one-unit, 200,000 tonne plant expanded to a six-unit, one and a half million tonne operation. Over the years, the plant has been upgraded and improved and now produces two million tonnes from five-units.

The Jarrahdale bauxite mine continued operations for 35 years, until its closure in 1998, and was the only source of supply for Alcoa's Alumina refinery at Kwinana. During that long partnership, the Jarrahdale mine provided 168 million tonnes of bauxite from which 44.6 million tonnes of alumina were produced.

Today, Alcoa has two bauxite mines in Western Australia, at Huntly and Willowdale. The Huntly mine, established in the early 1970s to supply the Pinjarra refinery, also supplies the Kwinana refinery.

Although 50 years old Kwinana refinery continues to make a considerable contribution to Alcoa’s international alumina operations and the West Australian economy.

Today, Kwinana employs about 1000 people plus a significant contractor workforce, with approximately 60 per cent of them living in the neighbouring townships of Kwinana, Cockburn and Rockingham.

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