Rio Tinto’s products “have a major role to play in transition to a low-carbon economy”, according to a speech by chairman Simon Thompson.
Thompson, who made the comments at Rio Tinto’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Perth, said the company’s highly publicised sale of its coal assets last year — which included two Queensland mines to Glencore for over $2 billion — did not affect the company’s growth.
“In 2018, we actually grew production by just under three per cent, on a copper-equivalent basis,” Thompson explained.
“Rio Tinto is now unique among the major, diversified miners, in having no fossil fuel production within our portfolio.”
Climate change is a key part of Rio Tinto’s business strategy. In addition to the elimination of coal from its portfolio, the company also partnered with Canadian company Alcoa last year on the Elysis joint venture project to develop a carbon-free aluminium smelting process.
In April, Rio Tinto announced the results of the JV were ready to be tested at scale and would be available for commercial sale in 2024.
The JV has become especially notable for American tech giant Apple’s investment of $C13 million ($13.8 million), in addition to funds from the Canadian Government and state Quebec Government.
Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jean-Sébastien Jacques, speaking at the AGM, mentioned the JV and by extension the importance of aluminium recycling in his address.
“Our partnership with Alcoa and Apple and the governments of Canada and Quebec to further develop greenhouse-gas-emissions-free aluminium smelting technology, is an industry-first,” Jacques said.
“In Australia, our aluminium smelter in Queensland is also Australia’s largest aluminium can recycling facility processing nearly 1500 tonnes a year – that’s 96 million cans.”
Jacques echoed Thompson’s climate change comments, saying the company was “well placed to supply the green materials of the future”.
Rio Tinto’s approach to climate change has received criticism from some shareholders. The company’s continued membership of the pro-coal Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has been a bone of contention with certain shareholders, for example.