Protecting the environment
Given their scale, operations like Rio Tinto’s in the Saguenay inevitably impact the local environment.
While hydropower plays a key role in creating low carbon aluminium, it too has impacts. Over the years, our team has been working closely with the local community to minimise the impacts of our hydropower operations on Lac-Saint-Jean, a 1,035km2 lake used for hydro storage. In 1986, following an in-depth environmental and social impact study, Rio Tinto and the Quebec government signed an agreement to protect its banks from erosion caused by changing water levels. To date, C$85 million has been spent in a 30-year programme aimed at countering erosion. Rio Tinto also invests in the protection of wetlands near its facilities, providing financial support for wildlife organisations and the Conseil régional de l’environnement et du développement durable (a regional environmental NGO).
Around the Lac-Saint-Jean, we have partnered with public charging network Electric Circuit and AddEnergie technologies to install five new electric vehicle charging stations. Joining the four stations already in place at several of our facilities, they are helping to promote cleaner road transportation in the region.
The Saguenay operations have also seen consistent success in minimising the impact of waterborne transportation. In 2015, the Green Alliance rated Rio Tinto’s port operations in the region a five out of five for the fifth year running. The categories covered by this accreditation include greenhouse gas emissions, leaks and spills, handling and storage of bulk materials.
Contributing to a strong and vibrant region
The Saguenay operations are embedded in the region’s economy in a way that extends far beyond direct employment at the different facilities. More than 900 local suppliers work with our operations. When the Shipshaw hydropower plant added a 13th turbine, which was completed in 2012, more than 90 per cent of the businesses involved were Quebec-based. It’s also been estimated that phase one of the Arvida AP60 smelter’s construction, completed in 2011, contributed C$607 million to the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region alone.
Rio Tinto also takes an active role in the future of Quebec, through its Regional Economic Development (RED) office, which was founded in 2004. Set up to support the long-term growth and economic diversification of the Aluminium group’s host communities, between 2004 and 2014 it invested C$75 million in the region, creating 2,500 jobs and supporting 162 separate projects and businesses. RED support has, for example, helped repurpose the former smelter site at Beauharnois and launched a centre aimed at commercialising innovative energy-efficiency technologies in Shawinigan. The nationwide Rio Tinto Aluminium Canada fund has also benefited the Saguenay region contributing, for example, C$2.5 million to Quebec University at Chicoutimi for a pavilion dedicated to First Nation culture, and supporting lifestyle and education initiatives.