Apple partners with Rio Tinto, Alcoa on ‘revolutionary’ green aluminium

Rio Tinto and Alcoa plan to expand the development of the world’s first carbon-free aluminium smelting process.

The companies launched the revolutionary process, which makes aluminium that produces oxygen and eliminates all direct greenhouses gas emissions from the traditional smelting process, in Canada yesterday.

Rio Tinto and Alcoa have formed joint venture company, Elysis, to advance larger scale development and commercialisation of the new process.

Elysis, which will be based in Quebec, will further develop the new process with a technology package planned for sale from 2024.

The patent-protected process, developed by Alcoa, is already producing metal at the Alcoa Technical Centre near Pittsburgh in the United States. It has been operating at different scales since 2009.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques said the revolutionary smelting process could deliver a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

“It builds on the key role aluminium has to play in driving human progress, by making products infinitely recyclable, stronger, lighter and more fuel efficient,” Jacques said.

Rio Tinto and Alcoa will invest $C55 million ($57.2 million) over the next three years and contribute specific intellectual property and patents.

Tech company Apple will invest $C13 million in the initiative. Apple helped facilitate the collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto on the carbon-free smelting process, and will also provide technical support to the JV partners.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was committed to advancing technologies that were good for the planet and helped protect it for generations to come.

“We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products,” Cook said.

Canada and the province of Quebec are also investing $C60 million in Elysis each. The Quebec Government will have a 3.5 per cent stake in the JV with the remaining ownership to be split between Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

The JV also plans to invest $C40 million in the US to support the supply chain for the proprietary anode and cathode materials.

It is estimated the technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5Mt of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, if fully implemented at existing aluminium smelters in the country.

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