PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Mining major Rio Tinto is looking at a $188-million investment to increase the production capacity for low-carbon, high value aluminium billets at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec by 202 000 t.
The existing casting center at Rio Tinto's Alma plant will be expanded to accommodate new state-of-the-art equipment, including a casting pit and furnaces, allowing a larger portion of the aluminium produced to be converted to higher value billets.
The miner said that construction will begin in May 2023, after completing detailed engineering and preliminary work, and commissioning is expected in the first quarter of 2025.
The investment will strengthen the supply chain in North America and allow Rio 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.
“This expansion of our low carbon aluminium billet production capacity in Quebec will allow us to better meet our customers' growing demand for high-quality alloys and value-added products made with renewable hydroelectricity,” Rio aluminium Atlantic MD Sébastien Ross said.
“This new capacity will help to strengthen the position of our Alma smelter and we are proud to work with our employees, clients, Quebec equipment manufacturers and partners to bring this much-anticipated project to fruition.”
The investment is expected to generate nearly $160-million in economic benefits for Quebec, and will create around 40 new permanent jobs and help to support the 770 existing jobs at the Alma plant.
“The announcement shows the strength of Canada's aluminum industry. Along with significant economic benefits, Rio Tinto's investment will see more jobs and more growth in our country, while cementing Canada’s position as a global leader in the low carbon economy,” Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said.
Global demand for aluminium extrusion products is expected to grow at an average of about 3% a year over the next ten years, driven by the energy transition and decarbonisation.