Hydropower, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Canada

Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean

Québec

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, 5 wholly owned smelters, 6 hydropower plants, our Arvida Research and Development Centre (ARDC), the Aluminium Operations 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 more than 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. Laterrière; 5. PLS-Dubuc; 6. Alouette (40% ownership); 7. Bécancour (25.1% ownership)
  • Vaudreuil refinery, Saguenay

    Refinery

    Calcination Centre - Vaudreuil refinery
  • Aluminium bridge, Saguenay

    Hydroelectric plants

    1. Chute-à-Caron; 2. Shipshaw; 3. Isle-Maligne; 4. Chute-à-la-Savane; 5. Chute-des-Passes; 6. Chute-du-Diable
  • New facilities on the bay

    Rail network & port

    1 port facility, and a 142 kilometres rail track with 19 locomotives serving our operations

Innovation and 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 ELYSIS™ technology towards the demonstration of even larger commercial-size cells in 2023. Construction of the first commercial-scale prototype cells using ELYSIS™ inert anode technology has now begun at our Alma smelter in Saguenay–LacSaint-Jean, Quebec.

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Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean communities

In 2004, we launched the Regional Economic Development (RED) initiative to support long-term growth in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, by helping the region achieve its economic development goals.

Also in 2018, our Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean 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 June 2023, we announced a C$1.4 billion investment to increase our low-carbon aluminium production in Canada with 96 new smelting cells at our AP60 smelter, in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. The investment will increase our capacity by approximately 160,000 metric tonnes of primary aluminium per year – enough for 400,000 electric cars.

We also announced other investments to sustain our assets in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, including C$92 million to refurbish the Isle-Maligne hydroelectric power station, the oldest in our network, commissioned in 1926, 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 2 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.

We’re expanding our capabilities to produce low carbon aluminium at our Arvida smelter in Quebec by recycling clean aluminium scraps sourced locally from used vehicles and construction materials. We’ll use the recycled material in our aluminium billets starting in 2024.

And to meet the demands of customers in North America, we’re investing C$240 million in our Alma smelter in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec region. By expanding the existing casting centre at Alma Works, a larger portion of our aluminium can be converted to higher value billets.

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 Operations Centre (AOC), which develops tools and systems using predictive mathematics, machine learning and advanced data modelling to make our operations safer, more productive and more sustainable. Processing more than 5 million pieces of data every hour, 24 hours a day, the AOC consolidates our sites into one big plant.

Together with our Operations, our Integrated Productivity Programme, the Industry 4.0 team and external suppliers, we have embarked on the 4.0 shift and deliver technological solutions for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

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Our Commitment to Quebec

Our CAN$1.4 billion investment to expand our facilities will generate up to 1,000 jobs during peak construction and approximately 100 permanent jobs to spur increased economic activity. But that’s just the start of our engagement here.

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 6 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.

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One Team, One Goal

Providing sustainable aluminium to fans of the Montreal Canadiens

Latest Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean releases

06 February 2024

Rio Tinto amorce le plan de transition pour positionner son aluminerie Arvida pour le futur

SAGUENAY, Canada – Rio Tinto a lancé un plan de transition visant à remplacer la production des anciennes cuves d’électrolyse de son aluminerie d'Arvida par la technologie de pointe AP60 et son centre de recyclage d’aluminium. Cette modernisation lui permettra de se positionner pour l'avenir, en fournissant à ses clients un métal à plus faible teneur en carbone et en apportant des améliorations su

23 January 2024

De nouveaux verres fabriqués avec l'aluminium de Rio Tinto font leur entrée au Centre Bell

Des verres en aluminium recyclables à l’infini aideront à remplacer plus de 1,5 million de verres en plastique à usage unique chaque annéeMONTRÉAL, Canada – Les Canadiens de Montréal ont dévoilé mardi leurs nouveaux verres en aluminium à faible teneur en carbone, recyclables à l’infini et faits d’aluminium produit localement dans les installations alimentées à l’hydroélectricité de Rio Tinto, dans

23 January 2024

New cups produced with Rio Tinto aluminium to debut at the Bell Centre

Infinitely recyclable aluminium cups projected to help replace over 1.5M single-use plastic cups annuallyMONTREAL, Canada – The Montreal Canadiens unveiled on Tuesday the newly-designed, infinitely recyclable, low-carbon aluminium cups made from aluminium produced locally at Rio Tinto’s hydro-powered operations in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec.Set to debut at the Bell Centre fo

Contact Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean

Community centre

1954 Rue Davis
Arvida, QC G7S 3B6
Canada
E: communautesriotinto@riotinto.com
T: +1 418 699 3666

Head office

400–1190 Av Des-Canadiens-De-Montreal
Montreal Quebec H3B 0E3
Canada

T: +1 514 848 8000