Rio Tinto announced in mid-October 2011 plans to streamline the operations of its aluminum product group, Rio Tinto Alcan. “Thirteen assets will be divested at an appropriate point in the future, and some of these will be managed separately in the meantime. The move will allow Rio Tinto Alcan to concentrate on its strategy to grow the value of its high-quality, tier-one assets and improve the product group’s financial performance,” the announcement said.

Rio Tinto’s interests in six Australian and New Zealand assets are being transferred into a new business unit, to be called Pacific Aluminum, and will be managed and reported separately from Rio Tinto Alcan prior to divestment. These are the Gove bauxite mine and alumina refinery, Boyne smelters and the associated Gladstone power station, and the Tomago and Bell Bay smelters in Australia and New Zealand Aluminum smelters in New Zealand.

A second group of seven assets will continue to be managed by Rio Tinto Alcan while it further investigates divestment options. These assets include three specialty alumina plants and the Gardanne refinery in France and Germany, the Sebree smelter in the United States, and the Lynemouth smelter and associated power station in the United Kingdom.

Rio Tinto acquired Alcan in 2007 for $38.1 billion in cash. Industry analysts estimate the value of the assets now up for sale at about $8 billion. Assuming successful divesture, Rio Tinto Alcan operations will be focused primarily on its Canadian smelters and support facilities but will also include the Weipa bauxite mine in Australia, mining and alumina operations in Brazil, and some mining and smelting interests elsewhere in the world.

Of the asset sale, Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese said, “The assets identified for divestment are sound businesses that are well-managed with productive workforces. But they are no longer aligned with our strategy, and we believe they have a bright future under new ownership.”