Emirates Global Aluminium’s (EGA) under-construction $3.3bn (AED12.1bn) Al Taweelah alumina refinery has recorded a development milestone, it was announced.

Al Taweelah is the first project of its kind to be built in the UAE, and the Middle East’s second. First alumina from the refinery is expected in H1 2019.

More than 10,000 people are currently working on the development, which covers an area equivalent to 200 football fields, and has “enough steel to build seven Eiffel Towers”, EGA said. Additionally, 430km of piping and 2,500km of cabling make up the plant, in addition to 450 pumps and 144 tanks that together have the volume of 128 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

EGA said it has received the first shipment of caustic soda for the refinery. Caustic soda and bauxite are “the two most important raw materials” in the alumina refining process.

Stocks of both materials are required for the sequential commissioning of the refinery, EGA explained. Bauxite imports began in June, and the manufacturer has also started stocking up on hydrate, another raw material required for Al Taweelah’s commissioning.

READ: Construction begins on Oman’s $7bn A'Duqm Refinery project

Upon the achievement of full ramp-up, Al Taweelah alumina refinery is expected to produce two million tonnes of alumina per year, and meet 40% of EGA’s requirements of the product, which it will use as feedstock for its aluminium smelters. The UAE currently imports all the alumina it needs for its projects.

The plant will need five million tonnes of bauxite annually, which will be imported from the Republic of Guinea in West Africa, as well as 130,000t of caustic soda per year. Last year, EGA signed a long term caustic soda supply agreement with Shaheen Chem Investments, which will build a chemicals complex near EGA’s facilities in Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi. Once built and ramped-up, Shaheen’s plant will meet all of EGA’s caustic soda needs.

EGA is also building a $1.4bn (AED5.1bn) bauxite mine and associated export facilities in Guinea. First bauxite exports from the Guinea Alumina Corporation project are expected in H2 2019.

Commenting on the Al Taweelah project’s progress, Abdulla Kalban, managing director and chief executive officer of EGA, said: “Whilst construction continues in many areas of Al Taweelah alumina refinery, we are steadily moving into commissioning completed equipment and sections.

“Importing the first of these raw materials is an important milestone in this immense effort to develop alumina refining as a new industrial activity in the UAE,” he added, according to WAM.