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Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto’s Bell Bay aluminium smelter in Tasmania.

Rio Tinto has partnered with the Tasmanian Government to investigate the development of new industries and boost the resources sector’s contribution to the state’s economy.

A Memorandum of understanding (MoU) will see Rio and the State Government attempt to decarbonise the Bell Bay aluminium smelter and allow it to feed clean technology industries which require vast amounts of aluminium.

Aluminium is used in a majority of the photovoltaic (PV) components in solar panels – most notably in the frames that hold them together.

By decarbonising Bell Bay, which produces 192,000 tonnes of aluminium per year, Rio can aid in the uptake of solar power globally.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said both MOU parties recognised the important relationship between Tasmania and the resources sector.

“This MOU is a strong demonstration of our shared commitment to Tasmania’s economic and industrial future and reinforces the State’s renewable energy credentials,” Gutwein said.

“Rio Tinto has been a figurehead of local industry here for some 67 years, directly employing more than 500 Tasmanians and more than 700 indirectly, and this agreement reaffirms Rio Tinto’s long-term commitment to our state.”

In January, Tasmania recorded a fourth consecutive month where the annualised export figures exceeded $4 billion, with 64.1 per cent coming from non-ferrous metals, metallic ores and metal scraps.

“These strong results follow data released showing that Tasmania has the fastest growing economy in the nation, with State Final Demand growing 4.2 per cent in the September 2021 quarter,” Trade Minister Guy Barnett said last year.

The Bell Bay aluminium smelter has continued to play its part in these figures, having operated in Tasmania since 1955, making it the oldest aluminium smelter in the southern hemisphere.

Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm recognised the importance of aluminium in decarbonising Australia and the world.

“Aluminium is essential for the global transition to a low-carbon economy, and we are excited about the contribution our Bell Bay smelter can make both towards this transition and to the region’s future,” Stausholm said.

“We want to help ensure a strong and vibrant future for Bell Bay, where we have been part of the community for well over half a century and where we are actively working with the Tasmanian Government on a shared vision for the future.”