Canadian Mining Journal

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ALUMINUM: Rio Tinto, Alcan team up to create carbon-free smelting



Aluminum smelter. (Image: Alcoa Corporation)

QUEBEC – Alcoa of Pittsburgh, Penn., and Rio Tinto Alcan of Montreal have created a joint venture, Elysis, to commercialize an aluminum smelting process that produces oxygen and eliminates all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Together they will undertake a $558-million, two-phase project that is perhaps the most significant innovation in the industry in more than a century.

In Canada, this new technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million tonnes of GHG emissions, or the equivalent of taking nearly 1.8 million light duty vehicles off the road.

This technology is the culmination of decades’ worth of research and development by both companies. Elysis will have access to all the relevant patents and intellectual property. The goal is to make a technology package that can be retrofitted at existing aluminum smelters ready for sale in 2024. Proprietary anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components, will also be available.

The Elysis joint venture will be headquartered in Montreal with a research facility in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Canada and Quebec are each investing $60 million in the joint venture, and Quebec will have a 3.5% equity stake with the remaining ownership split evenly between Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

Alcan and Rio Tinto will invest $55 million in Elysis over the next three years and contribute specific intellectual property and patents. A further $13 million will come from Apple. Apple helped facilitate the collaboration between the two aluminum companies, and the tech company will provide technical support to Elysis.

The joint venture also plans to invest up to $40 million in the United States to support the supply chain for the anode and cathode materials.

The government of Canada says Elysis will initially employ 100, and that number has the potential to rise to 1,000 jobs by 2030. Implementation of the Elysis project will also secure the 10,500 existing aluminum jobs in this country.

Elysis has named Vincent Christ to the position of CEO. He has more than 30 years’ experience at Rio Tinto Aluminium most recently serving as head of technology, R&D, and automation programs.

The name Elysis refers to the electrolysis of alumina, the heart of aluminum smelting. More information about the joint venture is posted at www.Alcoa.com/global/en/home.asp.