Rio Tinto, a global mining group, has announced a $1.1 billion investment to expand its AP60 aluminium smelter at Complexe Jonquière in Quebec, Canada. The expansion project will receive an additional $113 million in financial support from the Quebec government. This investment will enable Rio Tinto to increase its production of aluminium for various industries, including transportation, construction, electrical, and consumer goods.
The expansion will involve the addition of 96 new AP60 pots, increasing the smelter’s capacity by approximately 160,000 metric tonnes of primary aluminium per year. This increased capacity could produce enough aluminium for around 400,000 electric cars. In total, the expanded smelter will have 134 AP60 pots and a capacity of approximately 220,000 tonnes per year. Additionally, a new recycling facility at the Arvida site will contribute 30,000 tonnes of capacity by the first quarter of 2025.
The construction of the expansion is expected to take two and a half years, with the commissioning of the new pots scheduled for the first half of 2026. The entire smelter is expected to be completed by the end of 2026. Once finished, the expanded smelter is anticipated to be in the first quartile of the industry cost curve, ensuring competitive operations for Rio Tinto.
The smelter combines lower-carbon technology with hydropower, used across Rio Tinto’s operations in Canada, to generate one-seventh of the greenhouse gas emissions per tonne of aluminium when compared with the industry average, and half the emissions when compared to the technology currently used at the Arvida smelter, the company estimates.
“This is the most significant investment in our aluminium business for more than a decade and it will further strengthen Rio Tinto’s high-quality and low-carbon offering to our customers as they also work to reduce their own carbon footprint”, Rio Tinto Chief Executive Jakob Stausholm said in the statement. He also thanked Canada and Quebec’s governments for their financial support.
Quebec Premier François Legault said: “Today’s announcement will breathe new life into this industry with greener, less polluting processes. The use of AP60 pots will halve greenhouse gas emissions in aluminium production.”
Learn more about aluminium highlights of 2022 and forecast for 2023 (overview by Leonid Khazanov, expert, Metals Wire)