Rio Tinto announced in mid-December 2010 plans to invest more than $1 billion to modernize and expand its aluminum smelters at Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, and Kitimat, British Columbia. At Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the company will invest $758 to complete the first phase of its new AP60 smelting operation; at Kitimat, it will spend $300 million for further construction in preparation for a planned $2.5-billion modernization.

The first phase of the AP60 plant at Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is planned to have 38 pots and an annual production capacity of 60,000 mt of aluminum by 2013. The first phase of construction will include infrastructure required for subsequent phases, which are expected to lift total production capacity to 460,000 mt/y.

AP technology, developed by Rio Tinto Alcan, is designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce production costs. AP60 is the latest generation of the technology, and metal output per pot at the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean plant is expected to be 40% higher than at existing smelters.

The Kitimat modernization project will increase the smelter’s current production capacity by more than 48% to about 420,000 mt/y. The modernized smelter will be powered by hydroelectricity and will use AP technology to reduce its emissions by more than 50%.

Rio Tinto also recently announced it will invest $487 million to modernize and expand its Alcan Iceland Ltd. Straumsvik (ISAL) smelter in Iceland. On September 23, 2010, following completion of a long-term energy supply agreement with Icelandic power utility, Landsvirkjun, Rio Tinto announced a $347-million investment to modernize and increase the smelter’s capacity by 20% to 230,000 mt/y. On October 1, the company said it will invest a further $140 million at ISAL to install a new casting facility to produce value-added billet.

The ISAL smelter is expected to begin a gradual increase in production in April 2012 and to complete the production increase by July 2014.