Rio Tinto PLC is investing $1.4-billion to expand its aluminum manufacturing operations in Saguenay, Que., breathing new life into the industrial centre after years of uncertainty.
The Anglo-Australian mining giant said Monday it will build out a smelter that uses lower-carbon AP60 technology at its Complexe Jonquière site, adding 96 new pots to the existing 38 and increasing capacity to about 220,000 metric tonnes of primary aluminum per year. Pots are deep shells lined with carbon and insulating bricks in which aluminum is made through electrolysis.
“What we are trying to do here today is really about future-proofing” our business, Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said during a news conference in Saguenay. He called the investment the “most significant” by any western aluminum maker in more than a decade.
Aluminum manufacturers such as Rio, Alcoa Corp. and others are facing increasing pressure to curb their greenhouse gas emissions even as global demand for the metal is on the rise. The Canadian and Quebec governments are both trying to help industry players achieve this, investing, for example, in the ELYSIS technology pioneered by Rio and Alcoa, which eliminates carbon dioxide emissions altogether and replaces them with oxygen.
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