Hydropower, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Canada

Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean




of Aluminium from 5 wholly owned Quebec smelters


Alumina and specialty products

2022 figures


The Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean region is an important hub for our aluminium business, responsible for close to half of our global aluminium production. Our operations in the area include an alumina refinery, five wholly owned smelters, six hydropower plants, our Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC), the Aluminium Operational Centre, a rail network and one port.

Our refinery and smelters are some of the most technologically advanced in the world, and are powered entirely by clean, renewable hydropower. With a daily spend of C$1 million per day to maintain and increase the competitiveness of our business, we are also the largest private investor in the region.

  • Saguenay Grande-Baie Smelter
    Our smelters & casthouses
    1. Alma; 2. Arvida-AP60; 3. Grande-Baie; 4. Laterriere; 5. PLS-Dubuc; 6. Alouette (40% ownership); 7. Bécancour (25.1% ownership)
  • Vaudreuil refinery, Saguenay
    Vaudreuil refinery
  • Saguenay hydroelectric plant
    Hydroelectric plants
    1. Chute-à-Caron; 2. Shipshaw; 3. Isle-Maligne; 4. Chute-à-la-Savane; 5. Chute-des-Passes; 6. Chute-du-Diable
  • Saguenay at sunset
    Rail network & port
    One port facility, and a 142 kilometre rail track with 14 locomotives serving our operations.

Innovation & investment in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean

Our operations in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean have a long history of delivering innovation to the market and to our customers.  

In 2018, we launched ELYSIS, a partnership with Alcoa, supported by Apple and the governments of Canada and Québec. ELYSIS is further developing breakthrough technology that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the aluminium smelting process, replacing them with pure, clean oxygen. In Canada alone, if this technology were to be used at every smelter in the country, it could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – roughly equivalent to taking nearly 1.8 million cars off the road. ELYSIS will work towards bringing this technology to the market at its Research and Development Centre, located within Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière. 

In 2021, ELYSIS achieved a key milestone by successfully producing carbon-free aluminium at the Industrial Research and Development Centre in Saguenay. Work is now focused on accelerating the scale-up of the zero carbon ELYSISTM technology towards the demonstration of even larger commercial-size cells in 2023. Construction of the first commercial-scale prototype cells using ELYSISTM inert anode technology has now begun at our Alma smelter in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.

Also in 2018, our Saguenay operations helped us become the first in the industry to be certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) for producing “responsible” aluminium. This certification gives our customers independent assurance that the metal they use to make coffee pods, cars, smartphones and other products is made responsibly: with low-carbon emissions and to high standards on biodiversity, respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights and responsible water management. 

The certification also creates a traceability mechanism – the first of its kind for any industrial metal – so that companies like AB InBev can be sure that the aluminium they buy has been manufactured to meet ASI standards at every stage of the process.

Our port installations located in La Baie are certified Green Marine, a leading voluntary environmental certification program for the North American maritime transportation industry. We took this engagement to elevate our practice and improve them.

In November 2021, we announced an $87 million investment to increase our low-carbon aluminium production in Canada with 16 new smelting cells at our AP60 smelter, in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

We also announced other investments to sustain our assets in the Saguenay, including C$92 million to refurbish the Isle-Maligne hydroelectric power station, the oldest in our network, commissioned 95 years ago, and C$105 million to modernise the Port-Alfred port facilities.

In March 2022, we announced the commissioning of a new remelt furnace at our Laterrière Plant, adding 22,000 metric tons of recycling capacity to our aluminium operations. The $8.4 million project has been completed over two years and will enable the development of new sustainable products combining low-carbon and recycled aluminium for customers in the North American market. The remelt furnace is equipped with highly efficient burners to minimise its carbon footprint.

Our Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC) has been at the forefront of innovation for the industry since 1946. We have created and patented dozens of alloys for the automotive industry: in 2019, for example, our team developed Revolution-Al™, an innovative alloy that will allow carmakers to reduce the weight of wheels, improving fuel efficiency. We have also invented other products for everyday use, including alloys used in appliances and extrusion.

At our AP60 Technology Centre, we have pioneered one of the world’s most technologically advanced aluminium smelting technologies, producing 40% more aluminium per cell than traditional processes.

Our operations in Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean are supported by our Aluminium Operational Centre, which develops tools and systems using predictive mathematics, machine learning and advanced data modelling to make our operations safer and more productive – processing more than five million pieces of data every hour, 24 hours a day.

Employee at the Saguenay

Powered by clean, renewable energy

In Québec, we produce some of the highest quality, lowest carbon footprint aluminium in the world: 100% of our electricity used at our aluminium operations is generated from clean, renewable hydropower. Our Saguenay operations are part of our global production of RenewAl™ , the industry’s first certified low-carbon aluminium, with a footprint of 4tCO2/tAl or below.  

Our low-cost Canadian operations give our business a major competitive advantage, allowing our technologically advanced smelters to operate in the first decile of the industry cost curve. With six hydropower stations, we have an installed capacity of 3,131 MW and a yearly average production of 2,100 MW, making us the largest private power producer in the province.

Latest Saguenay releases

12 April 2023

Rio Tinto begins construction of its new billet casting center in Alma

ALMA, Canada - Rio Tinto has begun construction to increase its capacity to cast low-carbon, high-value aluminium billets by 202,000 metric tonnes at its Alma, Quebec smelter.  The existing casting center will be expanded to include new state-of-the-art equipment such as furnaces, a casting pit, coolers, handling, inspection, sawing and packaging systems. Commissioning is scheduled for the fi

12 April 2023

Rio Tinto débute la construction de son nouveau centre de coulée de billettes à Alma

ALMA, Canada – Rio Tinto a débuté les travaux de construction pour augmenter de 202 000 tonnes métriques sa capacité de couler des billettes d'aluminium à faible teneur en carbone et à haute valeur ajoutée à son aluminerie d’Alma, au Québec.  Le centre de coulée existant sera agrandi et accueillera de nouveaux équipements à la fine pointe de la technologie, tels que des fours, un puit de coul

15 December 2022

The wind is turning between Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and Rio Tinto with the signing of the Kuessilueu agreement

MASHTEUIATSH, Canada – Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and Rio Tinto are marking the beginning of a new era in their relationship with the signing of a first agreement named Kuessilueu, which means "the wind is turning” in Nelueun. This agreement in principle establishes the foundation for an innovative and sustainable alliance for both partners from a human, cultural and economic standpoint.The ag

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Saguenay hydroelectric plant

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