Rio Tinto ramps up effort to meet emission targets

Jean-Sébastien Jacques. Image: Rio Tinto.

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques has noted that achieving the company’s ambitious emission targets would not be possible without using its influence on the downstream customers.

Jacques, speaking in Rio Tinto’s climate and water seminar, said that achieving the targeted zero net carbon emissions by 2050 required a collaborative effort across the company’s value chain.

Rio Tinto aims to reduce its absolute emissions by 30 per cent, or 4.8 million tonnes, by 2030 to achieve the net zero.

The company plans to invest a billion dollars over the next five years on climate-related projects.

“Our approach to managing emissions depends on our level of influence,” Jacques said.

“We can obviously address the impact of our own operations and can also influence our non-managed assets through our joint-venture arrangements.”

Rio Tinto also aims to move away from the use of carbon-based energy sources in the aluminium and steel sectors.

Reducing carbon emissions in Rio Tinto’s aluminium refining and smelting operations will constitute about 70 per cent of its emission reduction targets.

“Over 70 per cent of our scope one and two emissions are from our aluminium business. Both alumina refining and aluminium smelting are energy intensive, high temperature processes,” Jacques said.

Rio Tinto has started developing a carbon-free aluminium processing technology known as Elysis in a joint venture with Alcoa.

Rio Tinto’s head of group technical, Nigel Steward said the technology had been producing metal at research level since 2009, with the first batch of Elysis aluminium recently purchased by Apple.

“Elysis is now working to further develop and scale up the technology, so that it can
be retrofitted into existing smelters or used for new ones,” Steward said.

Jacques said increasing investment in renewable energy would be the other key aspect of the company’s focus.

Rio Tinto has shut down its coal-fired power plant at the Kennecott copper mine in Utah and purchased renewable energy certificates, reducing the operations’ annual carbon footprint by 65 per cent.

He noted that a detailed asset analysis of around 60 of Rio Tinto’s projects in 2019 had indicated that achieving  the 2030 targets were feasible, noting that this did not include early closure of any assets.

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