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Major Rio Tinto has begun construction on the C$240-million expansion of its Alma smelter, in Quebec.

The project wil increase the production capacity for low-carbon, high-value aluminium billets by 202 000 t. The existing casting center will be expanded to include new state-of-the-art equipment such as furnaces, a casting pit, coolers, and handling, inspection, sawing and packaging systems. Commissioning is scheduled for the first half of 2025.   

Rio said that the C$240-million investment would allow more of the company’s aluminium production to be used to make billets from renewable hydroelectric power. This will allow Rio to be more agile and flexible in meeting the anticipated growing demand from North American extruders for a variety of high value-added products, primarily for the automotive and construction industries. 

The project is expected to generate an estimated economic impact of more than $200-million for Quebec, create approximately 40 new permanent jobs and help support the 770 existing jobs at the Alma smelter. 

“This expansion of our low carbon billet casting capacity in Quebec will allow us to better meet our customers’ growing demand for high-quality alloys and value-added products made with renewable hydroelectricity,” said Rio executive director for its Aluminium Atlantic operations Sébastien Ross.

“We are pleased to have started construction this spring as planned and to be able to rely on the expertise of qualified employees, world-class Quebec equipment manufacturers and our partners to bring this project announced last year to fruition.”