Rio Tinto expands low-carbon billet production in Canada

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Rio Tinto is investing CA$240m to expand the capacity for low-carbon aluminium billets at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec by 202,000 tpy.

The existing casting centre at the plant will be expanded to accommodate new equipment, including a casting pit and furnaces, allowing a larger portion of the aluminium produced to be converted to higher value billets. Construction will begin in May 2023, after completing detailed engineering and preliminary work. Commissioning is expected in the first quarter of 2025. The investment is expected to generate nearly CA$200m in economic benefits for Quebec, says Rio Tinto. The project will create around 40 new permanent jobs.

Expansion aims to meet growing demand for aluminium profiles

Sébastien Ross, managing director of Rio’s Atlantic operations, said: “This expansion of our low carbon aluminium billet production capacity in Quebec will allow us to better meet our customer’s growing demand for high quality alloys and value-added products made with renewable hydroelectricity. 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.”

Global demand for aluminium 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, for example bumpers and roof rails for cars as well as doors and window frames.

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