The Government of Canada is to invest C$15 million in the primary aluminium smelter Aluminerie Alouette.
“Canadian aluminium producers and workers form the backbone of a number of communities across the country, including in Quebec. This investment will help Alouette maintain at least 830 jobs and modernize its facilities. That will help ensure the long-term operations of the smelter, which plays a major economic role for the Sept-Îles area and its population,” says Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Funding granted through the Steel and Aluminium Program is intended to “bolster the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers and better integrate the Canadian supply chain of steel and aluminium,” according to the program description. More specifically, the amounts invested at Alouette are aligned with the facility’s modernization (four major areas), currently estimated at over C$474 million:
Pot change-out program (AP40): Technological migration of these pots got under way in 2018 and is continuing in 2019. It includes changes to the steel pot shells and the installation of new internal components in order to ensure the pots’ structural and thermal stability.
Conversion to natural gas for anode baking: Depending on the availability of natural gas at a commercially viable price in the Côte-Nord region, Alouette hopes to convert its anode baking furnaces, which currently use heavy oil, to natural gas, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and costs.
Use of automated production vehicles: If the upcoming tests are conclusive and commercially viable, Alouette hopes to integrate autonomous electric vehicles into its fleet of production vehicles, replacing diesel equipment.
Integration of various Industry 4.0 concepts: Alouette wants to continue to install robots, control and decision-making assistance systems and infrastructure needed for full integration of operations at the plant.
Year over year Alouette invests tens of millions of dollars in capital assets and projects of all sorts. Under the current agreement, it has also committed itself to maintain C$5 million a year in R&D expenditures in Canada.
Alouette president and chief executive Patrice L’Huillier is pleased by the contribution: “We are going through a period of turbulence in the industry. Despite everything, we are continuing to invest locally to ensure our organization’s long-term future. The government’s support speaks to our shared commitment to expand primary aluminium production in the country and thus generate benefits for the entire community.”