Alma, Saguenay

Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean communities

Our Regional Economic Development (RED) team helps local partners in four areas: aluminium innovation, decarbonisation, circular economy and digital shift.

From 2004, through RED, we invested C$100 million in Québec in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean. Stobia is one example of a start-up that the RED team has supported. The business was developed by an entrepreneur who noticed market instability impacting the supply of aluminum food packaging products. Since December 2020, they are now the only manufacturer of food packaging in Quebec. The RED team has also invested nearly $280,000 over the past five years to support A3 Surfaces, in addition to providing technical and research and development support.

We invest in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean in other ways. 

For example, the Rio Tinto Aluminium Canada Fund contributes to the region's non-profit organisations in five areas: First Nations, education, environment, health and well-being, and community. We partner with AlloProf to improve education in communities across Québec, an initiative that offers interactive study sessions to 400,000 students in the province. And CRÉPAS (Conseil régional de prévention de l'abandon scolaire du Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean), which the Fund also supports, works with teachers and educators to help young people throughout their journey to graduation.

Our business also plays an important role in the region’s economy. For example, we are investing C$250 million to extend the life of our Vaudreuil refinery, using industry-leading filter press technology and dry stacking to ensure it can continue to supply our aluminium smelting operations, support more than 1,000 jobs and generate significant economic benefits for the region. At our Arvida smelter, we are extending operations beyond 2020 with an investment of C$200 million. And at Alma, we are investing C$209 million to better position it to meet the demands of the future.


Helping small businesses grow


In Quebec, we have invested $650,000 to help Letenda grow, an organisation focusing on sustainable public transport solutions.


Since 2017, Rio Tinto’s RED team has been a proud partner of Letenda. With our investment, we have actively helped Letenda develop Electrip: a new generation of zero-emission electric city buses designed entirely in Quebec. It’s a project that aligns well with our focus on sustainability – combining public transport, low carbon footprint materials and renewable energy. We are proud to support small businesses like Letenda develop new innovative solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec.

  • Protecting the communities Around Lac-Saint-Jean
  • Cultural heritage

Protecting the communities around Lac-Saint-Jean

The lake Saint-Jean and its tributaries are part of an extensive watershed system totalling 73,848 km2, about the size of Ireland. The lake is an important part of the lifestyle for the communities in the region, particularly for the 5,000 people living along the shoreline. The lake is a popular tourist attraction and it’s also one of our three reservoirs that we use to produce hydropower to operate our smelters.

Unfortunately, the shoreline has experienced erosion problems for some time, caused by increasing water levels combined with wind and waves. In response to these problems, the Shoreline Stabilization Programme was created in 1986 with sustainable development at the heart of its mission. For more than 30 years, we have been working to mitigate erosion, taking into account environmental, social, technical and economic aspects. As of 2018, the programme includes a Sustainable Management Council where the different users of lake Saint-Jean come together to collaborate on solving the problems facing the lake. As part of this Council, we are committed to working closely with the First Nations Mashteuiatsh, local government, and community representatives such as environment organisations to protect and restore the shoreline.

Cultural heritage

For more than 30 years, Rio Tinto has collaborated with the Mashteuiatsh community. In 2003, we signed a mutual respect agreement with the Mashteuiatsh council, also known as the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan, from the Innu Nation – the only First Nations community in the Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region.

In keeping with our Statement of Commitment for Indigenous Peoples and our obligations under the Rio Tinto Aluminium Canada Fund, we invested C$2.5 million in the First Nations Culture Pavilion in 2016. Located at the Université de Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC) campus in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, this pavilion is dedicated to the protection and promotion of First Nations culture.

Every year, we also partner with the Mashteuiatsh on various initiatives such as taking part in the annual Pow Wow, also known as the Great Gathering of First Nations, where people gather to honour and perpetuate their culture and traditions. We also support education initiatives for First Nations through the provincial congress on First Nations’ academic perseverance and success, and Pathways to Education, a programme that helps students graduate from high school.