Rio Tinto has announced an investment of $165m (C$226m) to refurbish two anode baking furnaces at its Grande-Baie smelter in Quebec, Canada.

The project, aimed at maintaining the smelter’s anode production capabilities, will also include feasibility studies for replacing scrubbers and overhead bridge cranes.

The work on redeveloping the concrete shell and refractory lining of the furnaces will be undertaken in 2025 and 2026. 

This refurbishment is expected to secure a competitive supply of anodes for the Grande-Baie and Laterrière plants for the foreseeable future.

Rio Tinto has also pledged to offset the carbon emissions from the construction activities through initiatives such as tree planting around the smelter site.

The Grande-Baie smelter’s upgrade is expected to generate substantial economic benefits within Quebec.

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At its peak, the project is expected to employ approximately 185 workers, contributing to the local economy.

Rio Tinto Grande-Baie and Laterrière operations director Martin Lavoie said: “The refurbishment of the Grande-Baie smelter’s anode baking furnaces is a major investment that will ensure the sustainability and competitiveness of responsible aluminium production in the region for decades to come and will generate significant economic benefits.

“We are very happy to be completing this project over the next years in collaboration with our employees and local business partners.”

Rio Tinto’s investment follows a similar refurbishment at its Alma aluminium smelter, completed in 2021.

Last week, Rio Tinto agreed to buy an 11.65% stake in Boyne Smelters Ltd, the owner and operator of the Boyne Island aluminium smelter in Gladstone, Australia.

The stake will be acquired from Japanese trading house Mitsubishi.