Rio Tinto has approved an additional $2.7-billion capital investment for the ongoing modernization program at the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia. The investment will allow completion of the $3.3-billion project in 2014.

The Kitimat modernization project will increase the smelter’s production capacity by more than 48% to about 420,000 mt/y. First metal is expected to come on stream in the first half of 2014, with an expected ramp up of nine months.

The modernized smelter will be powered exclusively by hydropower that is wholly-owned by Rio Tinto Alcan and will use Rio Tinto Alcan’s proprietary AP40 smelting technology to reduce the smelter’s carbon dioxide emissions intensity by about 50%.

“The modernization of Kitimat will transform its performance, moving it from the third quartile to the first decile of the industry cost curve, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about half,” Rio Tinto Alcan Chief Executive Jacynthe Côté said. “This project draws on two of our greatest competitive advantages: clean, self-generated hydro-power and leading-edge AP smelting technology. Once completed, Kitimat will be one of the most efficient and lowest-cost smelters in the world, and will better position us to serve the rapidly growing demand for aluminum in the Asia-Pacific market.”