London-based metals and mining company Rio Tinto has announced that it will invest $29 million (CA$35 million) to construct an aluminum recycling facility at its Arvida plant in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, allowing the company to expand its offering of low-carbon aluminum solutions for customers in the automotive, packaging and construction markets. The facility will add 30,000 metric tons of additional annual production capacity at the Arvida smelter.
The investment follows an investment of $188 million announced earlier this summer to increase production capacity for low-carbon-emissions aluminum billets at its Alma smelter by 202,000 metric tons. That investment does not include additional smelting capacity but instead focuses on transforming more of the metal already produced at the plant’s pot rooms into value-added products, according to the company.
Rio Tinto says aluminum scrap sourced locally from used vehicles and construction materials, such as windows and door frames, will be remelted to produce recycled content that will be used in aluminum billets at the Arvida smelter and in other products from Rio Tinto's facilities in Quebec.
"The new recycling center will allow for a percentage of recycled content to be included in the current production of aluminum billets at the Arvida plant but also in other products from our Quebec facilities (rolling ingots and casting alloys) destined for the automotive, packaging and construction markets," Malika Cherry, a media advisor for the U.S. and Canada with Rio Tinto, says. "Depending on the composition of the scrap, the remainder will be sent to other regional casting centers."
Cherry adds, "The aluminum used will come from clean postconsumer scrap, primarily from metal recyclers located in Quebec, which will reduce the environmental footprint even more. Discussions are still ongoing with potential recyclers."
“Investing in new recycling facilities in Arvida is another step in our strategy to expand our offering of low-carbon aluminum products and integrate the circular economy into our value chain,” says Rio Tinto Aluminum Managing Director of Atlantic Operations Sebastien Ross. “This will allow us to continue to meet our customers’ growing demand for responsible, traceable and responsible products.”
Rio Tino says it expects the recycling center to be operational in the second quarter of 2024. Construction will begin in the coming months, with a remelting furnace equipped with regenerative burners and an automated scrap loading system to be installed in an existing building at the Arvida plant.
The company says it expects the project to generate $23.05 million (CA$30 million) of economic benefits in Quebec and to create around 10 new permanent jobs at the Arvida plant.
In 2021, Rio Tinto commissioned a new remelting furnace at its Laterrière, Quebec, plant to recycle aluminum scrap from its internal operations and manufacturing customers to produce rolling ingots for the automotive and packaging industries. In 2020, the company partnered with Quebec-based Shawinigan Aluminium to offer its customers a closed-loop recycling solution to complement its low-carbon billet production.
In addition, Elysis, Rio Tinto's partnership with Alcoa supported by Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec, is pursuing the development of a new smelting technology to produce aluminum without direct greenhouse gas emissions.