Apple backs Rio Tinto-Alcoa JV to develop carbon-free smelting method

14 May 2018 (Last Updated May 14th, 2018 17:02)

Technology provider Apple has collaborated with Australian-British multinational mining firm Rio Tinto and US-based aluminium company Alcoa to develop an aluminium smelting process that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions.

Technology provider Apple has collaborated with Australian-British multinational mining firm Rio Tinto and US-based aluminium company Alcoa to develop an aluminium smelting process that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto have formed a new joint venture (JV), known as Elysis, to facilitate the larger scale development and commercialisation of the new smelting process.

The JV will have its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and currently aims to make a technology package available for sale from 2024.

Other parties supporting the C$188m ($146.93m) project include the Quebec and Canadian governments.

“Rio Tinto is proud to work with Alcoa, Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec to drive an innovation that can transform the industry.”

The JV partners are set to receive technical support from Apple for the development of the carbon-free smelting process under the arrangement.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said: “This is a revolutionary smelting process that can deliver a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

“It builds on the key role aluminium has to play in driving human progress, by making products infinitely recyclable, stronger, lighter and more fuel efficient.

“Rio Tinto is proud to work with Alcoa, Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec to drive an innovation that can transform the industry and our customers’ supply chains.”

Elysis will engage in the development and licensing of the technology to enable the retrofitting of existing smelters, as well as the construction of new facilities.

In addition to eliminating direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process, the new technology is expected to bolster the Canada-US aluminium and manufacturing industry.

The JV will be supported by a research facility in Quebec’s Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products.”

Apple will invest a total of C$13m ($10.16m) in the project, while Canada and Quebec are set contribute C$60m ($46.89m) each.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto will each own a 48.25% equity stake in Elysis, while the remaining 3.5% stake will be held by the provincial Government of Quebec.

The new process is already being used in the production of metal at the Alcoa Technical Centre near Pittsburgh, US.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto are planning to invest $C55m ($42.98m) over the next three years, as well as contribute specific intellectual property and patents.

Furthermore, the partners are set to invest up to $40m ($31.26m) in the US to support the supply chain for the proprietary anode and cathode materials.