Rio Tinto drops $4-billion plan for new plant in Bécancour – by Jan Ravensbergen (Montreal Gazette – February 5, 2013)

Low titanium prices, belt-tightening torpedo 400-job facility

MONTREAL – Rio Tinto Fer et Titane, a wholly owned subsidiary of global giant Rio Tinto Group, has abandoned plans for a large new plant in Bécancour, the company said Tuesday.

Rio Tinto had been developing a plan to double the capacity of its Sorel-Tracy metallurgical plant, between Montreal and Quebec City, with a “greenfields” project in Bécancour Industrial Park.

The project would have cost in the ballpark of $4 billion. Up to 400 jobs would have been created by 2016. A collapse in titanium prices is one of the prime elements of the decision.

In a statement, Jean-François Turgeon, the unit’s managing director, cited two factors: “a background of weaker market conditions for our products and the need to manage and reduce our costs.” The project would have expanded the company’s mining and smelting capacities in Canada, Madagascar, South Africa and Mozambique, Turgeon said.

“We were conducting pre-feasibility studies on this project here in Canada and in Africa and this work has been suspended,” company spokesperson Bryan Tucker said.

Bécancour had been chosen by the multinational — narrowed from an initial list of four prospective sites — because of the area’s port facilities and the availability of lower-cost energy.

“This decision will not impact the current mine expansion at Zulti South at Richards Bay Minerals (in South Africa) nor exploration activities in Mozambique,” Tucker added.

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