Rio Tinto is investing US$188 million (CA$240 million) in the expansion of its production capacity for low-carbon, high value aluminum billet at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada, in response to growing demand for aluminum extrusions.
“This expansion of our low-carbon aluminum 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,” said Sébastien Ross, managing director of Rio Tinto Aluminium’s Atlantic operations. “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 will involve the expansion of the existing casting center at Rio Tinto’s Alma plant to accommodate new state-of-the-art equipment, including a casting pit and furnaces, allowing a larger portion of the aluminum produced to be converted to higher value billets. This will increase billet capacity by 202,000 tonnes.
CRU reports that global demand for aluminum 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. This increased capacity 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.
In addition to supporting the market, the additional capacity is expected to generate nearly US$160 million (CA$200 million) in economic benefits for Quebec. The project will create around 40 new permanent jobs and help to support the 770 existing jobs at the Alma plant.
“In Quebec, we produce the greenest aluminum in the world,” said Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec Minister of Economy and Innovation, and Regional Economic Development. “Modernization projects such as this one will enable us to maintain our leadership position in this area and contribute to the growth of this strategic sector. We have always said that the environment can and must serve the economy. The Rio Tinto project is a perfect example.”
Construction will begin in May 2023, after detailed engineering and preliminary work is completed. Commissioning is expected to follow in the first quarter of 2025.