Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Group announced a US$1.1 billion (CAN$1.4 billion) investment in expanding its Complexe Jonquière aluminium smelter in Quebec.
The investment will involve modernizing the AP60 aluminium smelter with new low-carbon aluminium smelting equipment. The improvements to the AP60 line will occur as potrooms at its Arvida aluminium smelter at the same site are closed down.
Altogether the project will include the addition of 96 new pots, increasing the plant’s aluminium production capacity by around 160 thousand metric tons per year, bumping up the plant’s nameplate capacity to 220 thousand metric tons per year. The new potlines are expected to be commissioned by the end of 2026.
Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said in a press release that the improvements are the next step in reducing its carbon offput.
“This investment is aligned with our strategy to decarbonise our value chains and grow in materials essential for the energy transition. Our AP60 technology is already proven and producing some of the lowest carbon aluminium in the world, thanks to the expertise of our highly qualified workforce and access to renewable hydropower. This is the most significant investment in our aluminium business for more than a decade and it will further strengthen Rio Tinto’s high-quality and low-carbon offering to our customers as they also work to reduce their own carbon footprint.”
Quebec Premier François Legault noted the importance of the project to the local economy.
“A great momentum is building in our regions for our green economy. The aluminium industry in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean has always been a real source of pride and has created considerable wealth in the region. Today’s announcement will breathe new life into this industry with greener, less polluting processes. The use of AP60 pots will halve GHG emissions in aluminium production. With the upcoming ELYSIS technology, Quebec aims to become the world champion of green aluminum.”
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said:
“Canada has all it takes to be the global green supplier of choice. And that is why our government is collaborating with key industry actors like Rio Tinto to produce the world’s greenest aluminium. By supporting the production of green metals, we ensure Canada will remain at the forefront of the economy of tomorrow. When economic benefits are paired with a commitment to developing green solutions, it’s a win for our industry, our cleantech ecosystem and our workers.”
The Quebec government has pledged to support the project by up to US$113 million (CAN$150 million). Rio Tinto and the Canadian government have also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation regarding the strengthening of supply chains for low-carbon primary metals, which Rio Tinto expects will help it enhance its activities in the country.