Mining minerals

Ottawa and Rio Tinto unveil plan to decarbonize and boost critical minerals

$737 million partnership will significantly reduce emissions by introducing new low-carbon smelting technologies at Rio Tinto’s iron and titanium complex in southwestern Quebec

Global mining giant Rio Tinto is partnering with the Canadian federal government to invest up to $737 million over the next eight years to increase its production of critical minerals, while reducing carbon emissions from its Rio Tinto complex Iron and Titanium (RTIT) in Sorel-Tracy, Que.

Rio Tinto says the partnership supports technological innovations that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 70%, the equivalent of taking 145,000 internal combustion cars off the road.

The mining company also wants to diversify RTIT’s production profile to advance initiatives that will support the growth of the electric vehicle and battery manufacturing industry.

Leader in critical minerals

“Rio Tinto is committed to being part of a net zero future, from decarbonizing our operations to finding new ways to produce the materials needed for the transition,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a statement. A press release. “We are delighted to work with the Government of Canada to position [RTIT] for the future and strengthen critical minerals and metals value chains in Canada and the United States.

The federal government’s contribution, through the Strategic Innovation Fund, will amount to $222 million over eight years.

“Good middle-class jobs, clean air, and technology made in Canada: this is our vision for a strong economy and a strong future,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the same statement. “[This] The announcement aims to deliver on that vision and position Canada as a leader in critical minerals – a key component of things like electric vehicles.

The total investment will create approximately 150 additional jobs at the complex.

Demonstration plant in progress

Rio Tinto plans to launch a BlueSmelting project at RTIT, which will use ilmenite smelting technology to produce high-quality titanium dioxide feedstocks, steel and metal powders with a reduced carbon footprint. According to Rio Tinto, this procedure has the potential to release 95% fewer emissions than the existing reduction process.

A demonstration plant at the RTIT facility is currently under construction to test and validate this technology, which will have the capacity to process up to 40,000 tonnes of ilmenite ore per year. The plant is expected to be completed by the first half of 2023.

By the end of next year, Rio Tinto says it will also open a new pilot plant to validate a low-cost process for mining and refining titanium, a material used in the aerospace and automotive industries. This method of producing titanium will not generate any emissions or require the use of harmful chemicals.

Other projects planned at the RTIT complex include quadrupling production of scandium, a mineral used in solid oxide fuel cells and aluminum alloys that create lighter, safer and stronger electric vehicles, and building another demonstration plant to produce spodumene concentrate, which is a mineral used to make batteries used in electric vehicles.

“Rio Tinto is exploring new sustainable ways to extract materials from batteries for the energy transition. We are seeing strong interest in the market for a North American supply of spodumene concentrate to support lithium battery production,” RTIT CEO Stéphane Leblanc said in a press release regarding the construction of the facility. the spodumene plant.

The RTIT complex also already houses Rio Tinto’s research and development facility, the Critical Mineral and Technology Centre.

Accelerating the EV supply chain in Canada

Over the past year, Canada has accelerated the building of a robust electric vehicle battery ecosystem, with significant investments in battery and cathode manufacturing plant projects and a commitment of 3.8 billion towards a critical minerals strategy in the 2022 federal budget.

With this latest announcement, Canada is now closer to advancing its efforts to become a global leader in the “responsible, inclusive and sustainable production of critical minerals, from mining to manufacturing,” the federal government says.

“Supporting the growth of Canada’s critical mineral supply chain will ensure that our country remains a world leader in this strategic sector,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry of Canada.

“Our government is committed to ensuring the sustainable development of critical mineral resources, creating good jobs and building strong global supply chains while strengthening commercial relationships with Canada’s closest allies.