Ottawa will pay up to $222 million in the Quebec plant of Rio Tinto Ltd.

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Rio is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70%

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would contribute up to $222 million to Rio Tinto Ltd’s plans. to increase production of critical minerals and reduce carbon emissions at the global mining giant’s iron and titanium oxide plant in Quebec.

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Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest mining company, plans to spend more than $700 million over the next eight years on its Operation of Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RTFT) in Sorel-Tracy, about 70 kilometers northeast of Montreal. Ottawa’s contribution will come from the Strategic Innovation Fund, and the final amount will depend on how much Rio Tinto ultimately commits to the project.

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The company has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, which Rio says would be equivalent to eliminating about 145,000 cars off the road. The company’s plans also include quadrupling the production of scandium, a mineral used in aluminum alloys that create lighter and stronger electric vehicles (EVs); produce titanium, a material used in the aerospace and automotive industries; and increasing its ability to produce lithium, which is essential for batteries used in electric vehicles.

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Rio chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a press release that the company was « delighted » to work with the Government of Canada and that the investment was part of its commitment to a net zero future.

Trudeau, who visited Quebec’s Rio operations on Tuesday, said the investment would help create « good middle-class jobs, clean air and technology made in Canada » and strengthen Canada’s minerals sector. essential.

The Trudeau government is trying to accelerate its goal of creating an ecosystem of EV batteries on home soil. In August, it signed deals with automakers Volkswagen AG and Mercedes-Benz AG to « deepen » cooperation on electric vehicles. Earlier this year, Ottawa signed agreements with Umicore SA, Stellantis NV and LG Energy Solution Ltd. to build cathode and battery factories.

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Demand for electric vehicles has increased in recent years as the world seeks to decarbonise, and Canada, which is rich in the minerals needed to make batteries, is keen to take advantage of this. However, some analysts say the country has a lot of catching up to do. For example, Canada ranked 13th out of 14 countries in global accountancy firm EY’s Electric Vehicle Readiness Index released last month.

Any company – or country – that manages to produce minerals and metals while reducing its carbon footprint will have a competitive advantage, as net zero requirements will put increasing pressure on companies to reduce their emissions. RTFT is a testing ground for a new technology that Rio Tinto says could cut emissions by around 670,000 tons.

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The miner also hopes to extract scandium oxide from its titanium dioxide production waste streams through new modules, a move that can increase its scandium oxide production to 12 tonnes per year from its current capacity. of three tons, without the need for additional extraction, he said.

The latest announcement is part of a series of steps Rio has taken in recent months to strengthen its presence in the green energy metals sector.

In late September, the company set up a demonstration plant to process battery-grade lithium. Earlier last month, Rio signed an agreement to secure up to a 60% interest in a copper project owned by McEwen Copper Inc. of Toronto. It is also in the process of acquiring two-thirds of the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia, which it considers one of the biggest new copper-gold mines in the world.

• Email: nkarim@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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