Metal Industry News

Rio Tinto Expanding Billet Capacity in Quebec

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Rio Tinto is investing $188 million to increase the production capacity for low-carbon, high-value aluminum billets at its Alma smelter in Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec by 202,000 metric tons.

The existing casting center at Rio Tinto's Alma plant will be expanded 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. Construction will begin in May 2023, after completing detailed engineering and preliminary work, and commissioning is expected in the first quarter of 2025.

Global demand for aluminum extrusion products is expected to grow at an average of about 3 percent per year over the next ten years, driven by the energy transition and decarbonization.

The investment 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. Aluminum billets are extruded through a die and the resulting profiles are used to make various products like bumpers and roof rails for cars as well as doors and window frames.

"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. 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,” said Sébastien Ross, Managing Director of Rio Tinto Aluminum's Atlantic operations.

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