Jet engine blades

Aluminium

Lightweight and infinitely recyclable, aluminium is found in everything from jet engines to electric vehicles to mobile phones. It is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, and one of the world’s fastest growing major metals. 

But we are only scratching the surface of the opportunities for aluminium to be a part of our everyday lives. For example, analysts predict the use of aluminium in lightweight cars and trucks in North America will increase by about 30% – from 177 kilograms per vehicle in 2015 to 227 kilograms in 2025. According to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI), for every 10% reduction in the weight of a vehicle, fuel economy increases by about 7%. Over its lifetime, every kilogram of aluminium that replaces heavier materials in a car or light truck can save a net 20 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.  

Aluminium is made from bauxite, or aluminium ore. Bauxite is the basic raw material that is refined into alumina, which in turn is sent to smelters for processing into aluminium. 

Our aluminium production process

First discovered near Les Beaux in the South of France in 1821, bauxite was initially called “beauxite”. In 1886, Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult independently developed a process for making aluminium from alumina. And in 1887, Austrian scientist Karl Josef Bayer patented his self-titled process for extracting alumina from bauxite. Today, the Bayer process and the Hall-Héroult process are still combined to process bauxite ore into alumina, and then convert it into aluminium.

We are a global leader in aluminium, with a large-scale, vertically-integrated business: bauxite mines and alumina refineries as well as smelters producing aluminium certified as responsible, to now being able to offer fully recycled aluminium products through our Matalco joint venture. Managing the process from start to finish allows us to bring quality products to our customers reliably and efficiently: from high-grade bauxite for the global seaborne trade to sustainably sourced aluminium for beverage packaging to new, lighter alloys for the automotive industry. Our Canadian operations average in the first decile of the industry cost-curve and produce aluminium using clean, renewable hydropower.

We produce some of the highest quality, lowest-carbon footprint aluminium in the world: the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of our managed Atlantic Operations smelters represents less than one-fifth of the industry average. Through ELYSIS, our joint venture with Alcoa, supported by Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec, we are helping to further develop a breakthrough smelting technology to produce aluminium with no direct greenhouse gas emissions, which is now being used in Apple products.

In 2016, we launched RenewAl™, the world’s first certified low CO2 primary aluminium brand.

In 2018, we became the first company to receive certification from the ASI as producing “responsible” aluminium in Canada. Our diverse alloys are designed to meet customer needs. In 2019, we launched Revolution-Al™, a new aluminium alloy developed to make lighter car wheels, which can help to make cars safer and more appealing to end consumers with reduced CO2 emissions.

We are also reducing the volume of waste we produce and creating new value for our business, such as supplying anhydrite, a by-product from our Vaudreuil alumina refinery in Canada, to be a fertiliser to our neighbouring blueberry growers.

  • wave

New partnership a slapshot for sustainability

Rio Tinto becomes official aluminium partner of the Montreal Canadiens

23

Sites certified as responsible by Aluminium Stewardship Initiative

4

Bauxite mines in Australia, Brazil* and Guinea*

4

Alumina refineries in Australia, Brazil* and Canada

14

Aluminium smelters in Canada, Australia, NZ, Iceland & Oman*

7

Hydropower plants generating most of the electricity we use in Canada

7

Facilities in US* and Canada* producing recycled aluminium

2

Port and rail facilities

3

Research and development centres

*non-managed Joint Venture

 
START Responsible Aluminium

START

We all want to know more about the products we buy – where they come from and how they are made. So to help our customers meet this demand from consumers, we created START – the first digital sustainability label for the aluminium industry. 

More

Using blockchain technology, START works like a ‘nutrition label’ for several of our products including aluminium – providing transparency and traceability across our supply chain, so end users can see environmental, social and governance information across up to 14 key criteria including carbon footprint, water use and recycled content.

And by showing how our aluminium is made – from mine to market – we are empowering our customers and theirs to make a more sustainable choice.

A first in responsible aluminium

We are now offering Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certified aluminium from all of our Canadian operations, through a ‘chain of custody’ spanning Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite mine in Australia to its alumina refinery, aluminium smelters and casthouses in Quebec and British Columbia, Canada.

The ASI aims to create sustainability and transparency throughout the aluminium industry. It has developed the world’s first global Responsible Aluminium Standard, used to assess environmental, social and governance practices across the aluminium supply chain for responsible sourcing. This is the highest internationally recognised standard for robust environmental, social and governance practices across the life cycle of aluminium production, use and recycling. 

This certification gives our customers independent assurance that the metal they use to make aeroplane parts, cars, smartphones and other products has been made to standards that promote the protection of biodiversity, respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights, water management and low-carbon emissions. ASI 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.

The use of Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) Certified Aluminium is an important milestone towards reducing the impact that the world’s second most used base metal has on the planet.

We are partnering with Anheuser-Busch to pilot beer cans made from our sustainably produced aluminium; it is low-carbon, and certified as meeting the highest industry standards.

Emissions-free aluminium through ELYSIS

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. ELYSIS has selected our Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, for the first installation and demonstration of its inert anode technology at a commercial size of 450 kiloamperes (kA).

In November 2021, ELYSIS successfully produced aluminium without any direct greenhouse gas emissions at its Research and Development Centre using a full industrial design at a size comparable to small smelting cells operating in the industry today.

In March 2022, Apple announced that they would purchase a first batch of commercial-purity aluminium produced at the Research and Development Centre to manufacture their new iPhone SE. 

And in a step towards putting a fully traceable beverage can in the hands of consumers, in June 2022 we partnered with Corona Canada to launch of Canada’s first specially-marked, low carbon beverage can, manufactured by Ball Corporation. The cans, now available through a pilot in Ontario, use Rio Tinto aluminium and leverage ELYSISTM technology. As part of this limited release, the 1.2 million cans produced have a QR code printed on them to inspire consumers to learn more about the cans’ low carbon footprint.

Work is now focused on scaling up ELYSISTM technology for even larger commercial-size cells, which should become operational in 2023. Construction of these prototype cells is now well underway at the end of an existing potline at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter.

Visit the Elysis website →
Our aluminium production process

Supporting Australia’s first Indigenous-owned mine

At nearly the northernmost edge of the Northern Territory sits the first mine in Australia to be 100% owned and operated, across the supply chain, by Traditional Owners – the Gumatj, one of the Yolngu clans in the area.

Located at Gulkula, in Northeast Arnhem Land, the mine provides employment opportunities for Traditional Owners. Among these are new graduates from the Gulkula Mine Training Centre, partly funded with A$2.4 million from Rio Tinto, that gives on-the-job training and support to the Yolngu people to help them build mining careers in the Northern Territory and beyond.

We have worked closely with Traditional Owners from the start, and we are committed to the success of this mine – both as a customer and a partner.

We buy bauxite from the mine to sell to international customers, and celebrated the mine’s first bauxite shipment in 2018.

Traditional Owners & Mining: Djawa and Linda 

Repowering our Aluminium operations in Queensland, Australia

While aluminium is essential for low-carbon solutions, including lightweight cars and energy efficient buildings, it takes a lot of energy to produce.

As Queensland’s largest energy user, we have an important role to play in driving the development of renewable energy sources to power our Queensland-based Aluminium operations and supporting the state’s renewable energy targets.

In 2022, we called for proposals to develop large-scale wind, solar and firming energy generating systems that can progressively start supplying power to the Boyne smelter (BSL), the Yarwun alumina refinery and the Queensland Alumina refinery (QAL).

Since then, we have announced power purchase agreements with Australia’s largest solar power project — near Gladstone and with Windlab’s Bungaban wind energy project.

Transitioning Queensland’s energy source on this scale is a multi-year and multi-stakeholder undertaking and is aligned with the Statement of Cooperation we signed with the Queensland Government in October 2021 to work towards establishing more renewable energy in Central Queensland.

Rio Tinto will continue to engage with potential partners to assess other proposals to help competitively meet the energy needs of its 3 production assets in the Gladstone region.

Our aluminium operations

 Hydropower, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Canada

Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean

An important hub for our aluminium business, the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region is responsible for close to half of our global aluminium production
Weipa port, Australia

Weipa

Our Weipa operations in Far North Queensland includes three bauxite mines, processing facilities, shiploaders, an export wharf, two ports, power stations, a rail network and ferry terminals
Aerial view of Kemano Kitimat

BC Works

Our BC Works operation comprises a newly modernised aluminium smelter and the Kemano Powerhouse, a hydropower facility supplied by the Nechako reservoir
Gove aerial shot

Gove

Our Gove site in Australia’s Northern Territory has been supplying the global aluminium industry with bauxite for more than 40 years
Aurora borealis over ISAL

ISAL

Our ISAL aluminium smelter produces some of the highest quality, lowest carbon footprint aluminium in the world
Yarwun Alumina Refinery from the air

Yarwun Alumina Refinery

Yarwun shipped its first alumina in late 2004 and today produces more than three million tonnes of alumina per year
Bell Bay from the air

Bell Bay Aluminium

Operating since 1955, Bell Bay holds a unique place in Tasmanian and Australian history as the first aluminium smelter in the Southern Hemisphere
Export wharf at BSL

Boyne Smelters Limited

Boyne Smelters Limited has been operating since 1982 and is Australia’s second largest aluminium smelter
NZAS from the air

New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter

NZAS converts alumina into aluminium using renewable hydroelectricity, resulting in one of the lowest carbon footprints for an aluminium smelter in the world
Plant equipment at Yarwun Refinery

Non-managed operations

Our non-managed operations across the world

Aluminium downloads

  • Aluminium suppliers

    Aluminium Suppliers
    Aluminium Suppliers - R5425-CR Formation Accueil CRDA [FR]
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    2.47 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - GX043-RG Accueil SSEC Entrepreneurs [FR]
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    8.26 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - GX043 HSEC Regional Orientation Training
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    8.39 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - GX085-TB Accueil UTB Entrepreneurs [FR]
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    2.52 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Procédure Accès formation Elearning - Externe [FR]
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    915 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers – P6075-RG Suivi thermique creusets [FR]
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    4.57 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - GX189-VA Accueil SDRB [FR]
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    593 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - R2115-RG Sensibilisation Mercure [FR]
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    1.3 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Grille Formation Entrepreneur [FR]
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    159 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - GX043 RG Accueil SSEC [FR]
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    8.26 MB
    Aluminium Suppliers – R1163-EE Risques géologiques CCP [FR]
    PDF
    5.35 MB
    Aluminium Entrepreneurs - R4210-RS Prévention incendies [FR]
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    1.23 MB
    Risk Analysis
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Releve Echantillonnage [FR]
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    352 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Monteur Ligne [FR]
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    432 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Mecanique [FR]
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    498 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Gros Transporteur [FR]
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    309 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Conciergerie [FR]
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    402 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Tank
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    206 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Observateur [FR]
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    344 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Manoeuvre [FR]
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    454 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Petit Transporteur [FR]
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    385 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Libre Service [FR]
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    392 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Electrique [FR]
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    475 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Grutier [FR]
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    406 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Civil [FR]
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    836 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Echafaudage [FR]
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    424 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Choisir ARG [FR]
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    241 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Citerne [FR]
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    416 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Batiment [FR]
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    705 KB
    Aluminium Suppliers - Risk Analysis Nettoyage Industriel [FR]
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    433 KB
  • Aluminium fact sheets and brochures

    Aluminium Sustainability Brochure
    Aluminium Sustainability Brochure
    PDF
    748 KB
    Aluminium Sustainability Brochure [JP]
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    962 KB
    Aluminium - PwC Carbon Intensity Assertion Report
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    1.16 MB
    Aluminium – START Responsible Aluminium: Empowering a Sustainable Future
    PDF
    5.63 MB
    Aluminium - Delivering a Responsible Future
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    10.57 MB
    Rio Tinto and the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI)
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    1.64 MB
    Aluminium - RenewAl Fact Sheet
    PDF
    161 KB
  • Aluminium sales terms and conditions

    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - Asia Pacific 2020
    PDF
    185 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - Canada 2020
    PDF
    205 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - EMEA 2020
    PDF
    207 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - US 2020
    PDF
    208 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions 2019
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - Canada 2019
    PDF
    161 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - EMEA 2019
    PDF
    157 KB
    Aluminium Sales Terms & Conditions - US 2019
    PDF
    160 KB

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