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Rio Tinto has announced the start of construction at its Alma smelter in Canada, which is set to increase capacity to cast low-carbon high-value aluminium billets by 202,000 metric tonnes.

The Alma smelter is located in Quebec and will be expanded to include new modern equipment such as furnaces, a casting pit, coolers, handling, inspection, sawing, and packaging systems. Commissioning is scheduled for the first half of 2025.

The $C240 million ($266 million) investment will allow for more of Rio Tinto’s aluminium production to be used to make billets from renewable hydroelectric power.

The Alma smelter’s construction is expected to allow it to meet growing demand from North American extruders for a variety of value-added products, primarily for the automotive and construction industries.

The project is expected to generate more than $C200 million ($222 million) for the Quebec economy, while creating around 40 new permanent jobs and supporting 770 existing jobs.

Rio Tinto aluminium Atlantic operations executive director Sébastien Ross said he was pleased to have started construction 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,” Ross said.

“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.”