Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO), the global mining heavyweight, is pressing forward with an ambitious, environment-friendly initiative that is set to position the company at the forefront of sustainable aluminium production. As the ASX 200 miner’s shares climbed to $120.67, an increase of 1.4%, market sentiment reflected the positive outlook towards the industry’s pivot to greener production methods.

The mining company unveiled its bold plan to revolutionise aluminium smelting by integrating carbon-free smelting cells at its Arvida smelter, located in Quebec, Canada. This groundbreaking move is supported by technology sourced from the ELYSIS joint venture. The project is poised to inaugurate a new eco-friendlier chapter in aluminium production, aiming to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint substantially.

The path to cleaner aluminium will not be cheap, but Rio Tinto is determined to lead the march. The company is set to pour US$179 million into the joint venture, alongside a sizable investment of US$106 million from the Quebec state government, culminating in a total budget of US$285 million (AU$426 million) dedicated to this venture.

Once completed, the new facility is expected to produce up to 2,500 tonnes of commercial-quality aluminium annually, achieving such output without emitting direct greenhouse gases. With operations slated to begin in 2027, this project represents a significant stride in aligning industrial processes with the urgent demand for environmental conservation.

Under an offtake agreement, Alcoa Corp (NYSE: AA), Rio Tinto’s partner in the ELYSIS joint venture, retains the option to purchase a share of the aluminium produced at the demonstration plant during its initial four years of production.


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Jerome Pecresse, Rio Tinto’s Aluminium CEO, has articulated the company’s vision of bolstering their North American presence by investing in low-carbon, responsibly sourced aluminium. This strategic move not only enhances the sustainability profile of Rio Tinto but also serves to strengthen the company’s competitive advantage in a market increasingly sensitive to environmental considerations.

Quebec’s Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, has lauded the carbon-free smelting technology as an unprecedented technological advancement with the potential to deliver substantial benefits to the aluminium sector. Such endorsements underscore the transformative impact of Rio Tinto’s initiative.

Despite the excitement around Rio Tinto’s recent project, it is noteworthy that the company is not recommended by investors to buy right now. It showcases that even when companies take significant strides in innovation and sustainability, investment decisions incorporate a multitude of factors, and what’s pioneering for industry may not always align with short-term investor strategies. However, Rio Tinto’s advancement in zero-emission aluminium production might set a precedent that could redefine industry standards and investor perceptions in the future.


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