Escondida, in northern Chile, is the world’s largest copper mine. It produces around 1.2 million tonnes a year, accounting for 5.5% of global production* (*2018 reference).
The mine, located in the hyper-arid northern Atacama Desert, is moving to 100% renewable power by tapping into Chile’s rich solar and wind resources. This supports Chile’s wider “Energía 2025” power policy target for 20% of all Chilean energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. From mid-2021, the power supply at Escondida will be largely sourced from renewable energy.
Water is critical to the mining operations at Escondida and to the communities in the Atacama Desert and, to reduce groundwater usage, desalination plants have been installed.
Escondida is owned by Rio Tinto (30%), BHP (57.5%) and JECO Corporation consortium comprising Mitsubishi, JX Nippon Mining and Metals (10%), JECO 2 Ltd (2.5%).
Escondida is managed by BHP. We provide regular input on strategic and policy matters through participation in an Owners’ Council, advisory committees and other engagements.
The Alumar alumina refinery, in São Luís, Maranhão, north east Brazil, started operations in 1984 and has been an important economic driver in the region ever since. The majority of the employees are hired locally. The refinery is a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (10%), with the remaining 90% owned by South32 and Alcoa.
Expansions in 2009 more than doubled production and, today, Alumar produces approximately 3.9 million tonnes of alumina per year.
The refinery is a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (10%), with the remaining 90% owned by South32 and Alcoa.
The GPS was built by the Queensland Government and started operating in 1976. Today, GPS is Queensland’s largest single power station and an important generating facility in the National Electricity Market.
GPS is operated by NRG Gladstone Operating Services. Rio Tinto owns 42.125 % of the station along with NRG Energy Inc. (37.5%), Southern Cross GPS Pty Ltd (8.25%), Ryowa II GPS II Ltd (7.125%) and YKK GPS (Qld) Pty Ltd (4.75%).
GPS ensures that it minimises the environmental impacts related to its operation through a range of programmes and by ensuring that waste products are recycled or treated, monitored and controlled.
GPS participates in the Port Curtis Integrated Monitoring Programme, a joint arrangement with other industries to monitor water quality of the Port Curtis Waterway and the Clean and Healthy Air for Gladstone programme to monitor air quality in the local region.
GPS conducts regular environmental awareness training and encourages all employees to consider energy consumption and protection of the environment.
Mineração Rio do Norte
The Mineração Rio do Norte (MRN) mine in Porto Trombetas, northern Brazil opened in 1979.
It is the country’s largest bauxite mine, with an installed capacity of 18 million tonnes of bauxite per year.
MRN is a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (12%), Vale (40%), and South32, CBA, and Norsk Hydro (48%).
Today, it is one of the world’s largest alumina refineries, producing approximately 3.7 million tonnes of the world’s best smelter-grade alumina per year.
QAL is an independently managed joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (80%) and Rusal (20%).
In 2018, QAL announced a five-year, $260 million investment in the refinery as part of a Five-Year Environmental Strategy, developed to improve QAL’s environmental performance, including air quality, odour, noise, employee culture, land and water management. Now that most of the 60 projects are defined, the programme is estimated to see an investment of $400 million. See QAL’s progress.
Our contribution to the broader Gladstone community is through Here for Gladstone, which is supported by Rio Tinto Yarwun, Boyne Smelters Limited and QAL. Here For Gladstone's formal programmes are governed by a Board made up of community and business leaders.
Since we started with our formal community programmes in 2002, Rio Tinto Here for Gladstone has invested A $7.2 million into the Gladstone community across a wide range of projects to improve the health, livelihood and welfare of the Gladstone community.
For example, feedback showed the Gladstone community were concerned about economic development and diversification. So, in consultation with the community, we launched the Here for Business programme in late 2017 that provides free business coaching and interest-free micro-finance loans to new or expanding businesses. To date, more than 33 businesses have participated in the programme and more than 90 local jobs have been created.
The Sangaredi bauxite mine, in the Sangaredi Plateau, north western Guinea, opened in 1973 and has an annual capacity of 14 million tonnes of high quality bauxite.
Rio Tinto owns 22.95% of the mine via a stake in Halco which holds 51% of the mine’s shares. The remaining 49% belongs to the Guinean Government’s Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG).
Approximately 60% of the production is earmarked for sale as liquid metal to local downstream industries, while the rest is exported as solid aluminium.
The company also operates a dedicated port facility at the Port of Sohar, which can handle vessels up to 75,000 tonnes.
Sohar Aluminium is jointly owned by Rio Tinto (20%), Oman Oil Company (40%), and Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA) (40%).
Tomago Aluminium in Tomago, New South Wales in Australia, has been operating since 1983 and today is Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, producing 580,000 tonnes of aluminium per year.
Tomago Aluminium is an independently managed joint venture owned by Rio Tinto (51.55%), Gove Aluminium Finance Limited (36.05%) and Hydro Aluminium (12.40%).
Innovation at Tomago
Tomago’s emissions are among the lowest recorded by any aluminium smelter in the world. Emissions created during the smelting process pass through ducting to treatment plants, known as dry scrubbers, where impurities are removed.
Tomago has a comprehensive environmental management programme, focusing on emissions control and incorporating one of the world’s most advanced pollution-control and environmental protection systems.
Among the emissions carried to the dry scrubbers are fluorides, which, with other fumes and dust, form particles that are captured in large filter bags. These particles are returned to the smelter as feed material. This process is more than 99% effective in removing fluoride from the gases collected.
At Tomago, we have an out-of-pay donation scheme by which employee donations are matched dollar-for-dollar by the company. In 2021, our Workplace Giving Program raised $143,000 with $75,000 donated to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and the rest being split between Ronald McDonald House, Survivor’s R Us, Cancer Research (HMRI) and the Port Stephen’s Koala Sanctuary.
Tomago has partnerships with more than 500 suppliers from the Hunter Region, and works with them to deliver results through continuous improvement and innovation. Tomago recognises their partners every year at their annual Supplier Awards.