Rio Tinto announces two major investments

November 17, 2021

Rio Tinto announced two major investments. The company will invest US$87 million in low-carbon aluminium production in Canada with 16 new smelting cells at its AP60 smelter, in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec.

Rio Tinto also announced that it is supporting the development of a battery ecosystem in Europe with an investment in Inobat Auto (InoBat), a European-based battery technology and manufacturing company. This investment will support the completion of InoBat’s research and development center and pilot battery line in Voderady, Slovakia.

Rio Tinto’s low-carbon aluminium production investment will increase production at the smelter by around 45 per cent, or 26.5 kt/a (29,200 stpy) of primary aluminium, to a capacity of 86.5 kt (95,300 st) and provide a secure future for approximately 100 employees who work at the facility.
Rio Tinto projects that the global aluminium market will grow at an average rate of 3.3 percent per annum over the next decade with strong demand driven by the energy transition and decarbonization.

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Ivan Vella said: “Rio Tinto is committed to strengthening its position as a leader in low-carbon, hydro-powered aluminium production to meet the clear demand from our customers in North America and Europe. Our AP60 technology is one of the most energy efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective systems in commercial production today. It produces some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium with renewable hydropower here in Quebec. We are assessing options for further investments, as we progress development of the ELYSIS zero carbon smelting technology with our partners."

The new pots will be built in the existing building of the Complexe Jonquière’s AP60 technology centre, which currently has 38 pots. Work will begin in the spring of 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. At the same time, Rio Tinto will study the potential to add more AP60 cells at the site.

The AP60 technology was developed by Rio Tinto's research and development teams, including the Arvida Research and Development Centre, and generates seven times less greenhouse gases than the industry average. Since their commissioning in Saguenay in 2013, the initial AP60 technology pots have produced more than 465 kt (512,000 st) of low-carbon aluminium.

Rio Tinto’s investment of Inobat Auto will support the completion of InoBat’s research and development center and pilot battery line in Voderady, Slovakia. The investment follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May, outlining an intention to work together to progress the establishment of a “cradle-to-cradle” electric vehicle battery value chain in Serbia.

InoBat, a European based battery manufacturer with a battery research and development facility and pilot plant under development in Slovakia, is actively pursuing plans to build a number of gigafactories, including one in Serbia. The company specializes in the pioneering research, development, manufacture, and provision of premium innovative electric batteries custom-designed to meet the specific requirements of customers within the automotive, commercial vehicle, motorsport, and aerospace sectors.

Rio Tinto’s $2.4 billion Jadar lithium-borates project in Serbia is one of the largest greenfield lithium projects in development. The Jadar project remains subject to receiving all relevant approvals, permits and licences and ongoing engagement with local communities, the Government of Serbia and civil society. It has the potential to produce approximately 58 kt (64,000 st) of battery grade lithium carbonate and position Rio Tinto as the largest source of lithium supply in Europe for at least the next 15 years.

Managing director of Rio Tinto’s battery materials business, Marnie Finlayson said, “We are delighted to be able to deepen our partnership with InoBat through our investment and look forward to benefitting from a broader perspective of the battery materials sector, as well as insights into future battery chemistries and technologies.

“Our Jadar lithium project in Serbia is on the doorstep of the European electric vehicle market. Capable of producing enough lithium to make around one million electric vehicle batteries a year to the highest environmental standards,2 we believe Jadar will be a critical supplier of the European battery ecosystem and, through our investment in InoBat, we hope that we can assist in making some of those batteries locally.”
Marian Bocek, chief executive officer of InoBat Auto said “InoBat is thrilled to further partner with Rio Tinto. Our mission has always been to provide solutions across the entire value chain – a cradle-to-cradle approach, which showcases the concept of the circular economy and will support Europe’s bid for technological independence. Side-by-side with Rio Tinto, we are looking forward to further developing our manufacturing capacities and working closely on the downstream development of a battery ecosystem with common decarbonization efforts at its core.”



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