Aluminium bicycles

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. 

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. 

Our aluminium production process

We are a global leader in aluminium, with large-scale, high-quality bauxite mines and alumina refineries and, in Canada, technologically advanced smelters operating in the first decile of the industry cost curve and run on 100% clean hydropower. 

We produce some of the highest quality, lowest-carbon footprint aluminium in the world: across our global aluminium operations, our carbon footprint is 60% below 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 aluminium smelting technology with no direct greenhouse gas emissions. 

In 2018, we became the first company to receive certification from the ASI as producing “responsible” aluminium in Canada. Also in 2018, Nespresso announced that they would be using Rio Tinto’s certified aluminium for their coffee pods.

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.

1st

ASI-Certified Aluminium Producer

5

Bauxite Mines

4

Alumina Refineries

14

Aluminium Smelters

7

Hydropower Plants

2

Port & Rail Facilities

3

Research & Development Centres

Our Aluminium Operations

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 Nespresso 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.

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. 

Visit the Elysis website >

Can aluminium production really be emissions free?

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 

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Aluminium produced at our Alma smelter, Quebec
Aluminium produced at our Alma smelter, Quebec

Aluminium

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E: Aluminium Sales