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Rio Tinto and Ford Motor Company have signed a non-binding global memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly develop more sustainable and secure supply chains for battery and low-carbon materials to be used in Ford vehicles.

The multi-materials partnership will support the transition toward a net-zero future by supplying Ford, one of the world’s largest automakers, with materials including lithium, low-carbon aluminium and copper. It will also allow Rio Tinto to progress its commitment to work with customers to decarbonise value chains.

Under the agreement, Ford will explore becoming the foundation customer for Rio Tinto’s Rincon lithium project in Argentina. Rio Tinto is currently progressing detailed planning to bring Rincon into production and will work with Ford toward a significant lithium off-take agreement to support its production of electric vehicles.

The companies will work together to strengthen the supply of low carbon aluminium for use in Ford vehicles, including metal produced using the zero carbon ELYSIS smelting technology and from Rio Tinto’s hydro-powered operations in Canada, helping Ford meet its commitment to the First Mover’s Coalition.

Ford and Rio Tinto will also work to develop secure, domestic supply chains for Ford across other essential commodities for the energy transition from Rio Tinto’s operations in North America, including copper produced with a low-carbon footprint.

The MOU builds on Ford’s relationship with Rio Tinto as a primary aluminium raw material source for its iconic F-150, the world’s first all aluminium body pick-up truck. The high-strength aluminium alloys used in the Ford F-150 help improve performance and save weight, helping it to tow heavier loads, accelerate quicker and reduce stopping distances. Now, the companies will work together exploring what’s possible in the energy transition with models like Ford’s next-generational full-size electric truck.

This follows Ford signing a recent MOU with BHP for supply of nickel from Australia.