Technological innovation in the 1950s

Rio Tinto’s history in BC dates back more than half a century.

It all began in the 1940s when the BC Government invited the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan) to British Columbia to review the feasibility of building an aluminium smelter. British Columbia was envious of the manufacturing sector developed in Ontario and Quebec and was eager to pursue such opportunities for its own economy.

Shortly thereafter, construction commenced on what was the largest private construction investment in Canadian history. The project included the construction of the world’s largest smelter of the era, and hydroelectric infrastructure to power the smelter. The new smelter was officially completed in 1954, when HRH Prince Philip visited Kitimat to preside over the ceremonial pour of the first Kitimat-produced aluminium ingot.

An important aspect of success was the development of the community of Kitimat. Kitimat is regarded as British Columbia’s first planned community and was designed to offer a desirable setting for workers and their families to ensure a stable workforce.

The next 60 years

In March 2016, the last of the 384 pots in the modernised smelter came into operation, marking the beginning of a new era of aluminium production for Kitimat and northwest BC. The new technology, combined with the stable, low cost, green hydro-electric power generated by our Kemano facility, is a winning combination sustaining a bright future for Rio Tinto in British Columbia.

“The Kitimat Modernisation Project gives us certainty in the future…we’re looking forward to another 60 years of certainty, not only for Kitimat but also the smelter that benefits the whole region.”
- Phil Germuth, Mayor, District of Kitimat