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Rio Tinto to invest $1.1 billion to expand aluminum smelter in Canada


(Reuters) -Rio Tinto will invest $1.1 billion to expand its “low-carbon” aluminum smelter at Complexe Jonquière in Quebec, Canada, the Anglo-Australian mining giant said on Monday.

The investment will boost annual capacity by about 160,000 metric tonnes of primary aluminum, the global miner said, adding it was sufficient to power 400,000 electric cars.

Pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions has prompted Rio, Alcoa Corp, and other aluminum manufacturers to launch a raft of products with lower carbon emissions.

The Canadian government has been involved in such efforts. It has invested in the ELYSIS technology pioneered by Alcoa and Rio Tinto that eliminates all CO2 emissions and replaces them with oxygen.

“This announcement brings us one step closer to the deployment of the first ELYSIS pots, which will make Quebec the leader in greenhouse gas-free aluminum production,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s minister of economy, innovation and energy.

The Quebec government will provide up to $113 million in support for the latest smelter expansion.

“This is the most significant investment in our aluminum business for more than a decade…,” Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm said.

Construction will run over two-and-a-half years, with commissioning of the new pots expected to start in the first half of 2026 and the smelter fully ramped up by the end of 2026.

The project will create up to 1,000 jobs during peak construction, with about 100 permanent jobs.

The investment has been factored into the capital expenditure for 2023 to 2025, Rio Tinto said, retaining the capex guidance of $9 billion to $10 billion for 2024 and 2025.

The expansion will coincide with the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter on the same site, Rio said.

Rio and the Canadian government also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen supply chains for low-carbon primary metals, critical minerals and other value-added products, the miner said.

(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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