Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto is set to spend C$240m ($188m) to boost the production of low-carbon aluminium billets at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, Canada.

As part of the plan to grow aluminium billets production by 202,000 metric tonnes, the firm will expand the capacity of the existing casting centre at its Alma plant.

The expanded casting centre will accommodate new equipment, including furnaces and a casting pit, to enable the conversion of the larger portion of the aluminium to higher-value billets.

This investment is expected to create 40 new permanent jobs while supporting the current 770 jobs at the Alma plant. It is also projected to offer nearly $160m in economic benefits for Quebec.

Rio Tinto plans to complete detailed engineering and preliminary work, following which construction will commence in May 2023. Commissioning is scheduled for the first quarter of 2025.

The firm anticipates the global demand for aluminium extrusion products to increase over the next ten years at an average of around 3% per annum, aided by decarbonisation and energy transition.

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By GlobalData

In addition to strengthening the supply chain in North America, the investment is expected to help Rio Tinto support the surging demand for high value-added products, mainly in the automotive and construction sectors.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Atlantic operations managing director Sébastien Ross said: “This expansion of our low-carbon aluminium 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.”

Canada Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said: “Along with significant economic benefits, Rio Tinto’s investment will see more jobs and more growth in our country while cementing Canada’s position as a global leader in the low carbon economy.”