A big drop in Chinese exports is firming the case for Australia's first aluminium fluoride production, which is being planned for Tasmania.
ALCORE Limited wants to produce the material - crucial for aluminium smelters - at Bell Bay.
If the project proceeds as planned, job numbers are expected to ramp up from 50 at the start of production to about 200 over time.
The company, which is 87 per cent owned by Tasmania's bauxite miner, Australian Bauxite Limited, and might be spun off as a separate ASX-listed company down the track, hopes to start production at Bell Bay in 2023.
ALCORE chief executive Mark Cooksey said Australia was totally dependent on overseas aluminium fluoride suppliers.
He said Australasia was the largest aluminium producing region in the world without its own aluminium fluoride production.
China is an important exporter of aluminium fluoride to Australia and other areas, while also being a big user for its own aluminium production.
Dr Cooksey said Chinese aluminium fluoride exports had decreased dramatically in recent times.
" ... typically, China would export 4 million tonnes a month," he said.
"In February, it was 500,000.
"Chinese New Year can have an effect, but in February in previous years it was nowhere near that low."
Dr Cooksey did not know if the drop in exports related to trade tensions or supply or demand issues, but expressed concern about Australia's total reliance on imports.
"The numbers remind me Australia has to import everything," he said.
"The smelters would stop in weeks if supply was cut off."
He said it was a positive for ALCORE to say it could make aluminium fluoride in Australia.
Australian Bauxite last year said Australasia imported more than 30,000 tonnes of aluminium fluoride per year from China, worth more than $60 million.
ALCORE wants to start Bell Bay production at 10,000 tonnes per year, before increasing to 50,000 tonnes.
"We have demonstrated most of what need to at laboratory scale," Dr Cooksey said.
ALCORE was now designing a pilot plant which it aimed to have complete this year, most likely in New South Wales.
The pilot plant was expected to provide enough information for the company to build the production plant planned for Bell Bay next year.
Dr Cooksey said it was scoping sites at Bell Bay, and not yet negotiating about a particular site.
Part of the attraction of Bell Bay was that it already hosted an aluminium smelter, giving ALCORE potential to supply the smelter's aluminium fluoride while taking some of its waste material for use in aluminium fluoride production.
Capital raising of about $20 million would be needed to design, build and start the 10,000 tonnes per year plant.
Australian Bauxite is best known for its mining activities at Bald Hill, near Campbell Town.
It has other deposits in Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland.