Rio Tinto investing $188M to expand low-carbon aluminum billet production in Canada
14 July 2022
Rio Tinto is investing US$188 million to increase the production capacity for low-carbon, high value aluminum billets at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec by 202,000 metric tonnes.
The Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region in Canada is an important hub for Rio Tinto’s aluminum business, responsible for close to half of its global aluminum production. The operations in the area include an alumina refinery, four wholly owned smelters, six hydropower plants, the Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC), the Aluminum Operational Center, a rail network and one port.
The refinery and smelters are powered entirely by hydropower.
The existing casting center at Rio Tinto’s Alma plant will be expanded to accommodate new equipment, including a casting pit and furnaces, allowing a larger portion of the aluminum produced to be converted to higher value billets. Construction will begin in May 2023, after completing detailed engineering and preliminary work, and commissioning is expected in the first quarter of 2025.
Global demand for aluminum extrusion products is expected to grow at an average of about 3% per year over the next ten years, driven by the energy transition and decarbonization.
The investment will strengthen the supply chain in North America and allow Rio Tinto to be more agile and flexible to support the critical growth of North American manufacturers for a variety of high value-added products, primarily in the automotive and construction industries.
Aluminium billets are extruded through a die and the resulting profiles are used to make various products such as bumpers and roof rails for cars as well as doors and window frames.
The investment is expected to generate nearly US$160 million in economic benefits for Québec. The project will create around 40 new permanent jobs and help to support the 770 existing jobs at the Alma plant.