The AP60 smelting technology was developed by Rio Tinto’s Research and Development teams and is amongst the most efficient and lowest carbon technology currently available at commercial scale. PHOTO courtesy Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto will invest $1.4 billion to expand its AP60 aluminium smelter equipped with low-carbon technology at Complexe Jonquière in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
The total investment includes up to $150 million of financial support from the Quebec government. This expansion, which will coincide with the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter on the same site, will enable Rio Tinto to continue meeting demand for low-carbon, high-quality aluminium for use in transportation, construction, electrical and consumer goods.
The investment will add 96 new AP60 pots, increasing capacity by approximately 160,000 metric tonnes of primary aluminium per year, enough for 400,000 electric cars. As a result, there will be a total of 134 AP60 pots and a capacity of approximately 220,000 tonnes per annum. 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. Once completed, the expanded smelter is expected to be in the first quartile of the industry cost curve.
This new capacity will offset the 170,000 tonnes of capacity lost through the gradual closure of potrooms at the Arvida smelter from 2024. In addition, Rio Tinto will add 30,000 tonnes of new capacity through the commissioning of the previously announced recycling facility at Arvida in the first quarter of 2025. These facilities will ensure Rio Tinto’s casting facilities at Complexe Jonquière continue to provide value added products that meet customers’ needs, including integrating recycled post-consumer aluminium into primary aluminium alloys.
The AP60 smelting technology was developed by Rio Tinto’s Research and Development teams and is amongst the most efficient and lowest carbon technology currently available at commercial scale. When combined with the hydropower used at Rio Tinto’s operations in Canada, it generates one seventh of greenhouse gases 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 project will generate up to 1,000 jobs during the peak of construction and approximately 100 permanent jobs will be maintained as a result of the expanded smelter.
In addition to this investment in low-carbon aluminium, Rio Tinto is working with the Governments of Canada and Quebec towards a deployment of the ELYSIS zero carbon aluminium smelting technology at its Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean facilities. With the current development pathway, ELYSIS aims to have its technology available for installation from 2024 and the production of larger volumes of carbon-free aluminium approximately two years later.
Rio Tinto and the Government of Canada have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding that deepens their commitment to strengthen supply chains for low-carbon primary metals, critical minerals and other value-added products. The cooperation will also aim to support projects that have the potential to grow Rio Tinto’s activities in Canada, including the current and future decarbonisation of the aluminium supply chain.