Local Meets Global

The aluminum smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia was the largest in the world when it opened in 1954. Today, it’s one of the greenest.

The smelter, built by the Aluminum Company of Canada, was the biggest private construction project in Canadian history in the 1950s, and the plant was a showpiece for the technology of the day – powered with clean energy from a brand-new hydroelectric plant.

Fast-forward 60 years, when the smelter, now owned by mining giant Rio Tinto, was in need of an upgrade. Rather than upgrading the original plant, the company decided once again to invest in technology that would make it a world leader – building a brand-new $6-billion smelter that uses leading-edge technology to produce some of the lowest carbon emission aluminum in the world.

When asked why Rio Tinto decided to stay in B.C. rather than build elsewhere, Barrios cites a number of factors, including the hydroelectric power that allows the company to produce some of the world’s greenest aluminum, and access to an ice-free port to serve North American and Asian customers in the fast-growing aluminum market.

Carl Anderson, President and CEO of the BC Innovation Council, says one of the things that impresses him about Rio Tinto’s presence in the province is that “they’re an international company who are very interested in working in British Columbia with B.C. companies.”

BC Innovation Council works with companies like Rio Tinto to identify areas where they can improve through innovation, then helps connect those challenges with B.C. companies that can offer solutions. Rio Tinto, who has put an emphasis on cultivating a strong innovation sector to maximize their global competitiveness, was a natural fit to collaborate with the BC Innovation Council.

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail >>

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