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Alcoa, Apple and Rio Tinto get behind new carbon free smelting process to revolutionise aluminium manufacturing

The new process involves the use of a proprietary material that can be used instead of carbon in smelters

Alcoa, Apple and Rio Tinto get behind new carbon free smelting process to revolutionise aluminum man
Traditional smelting of aluminium creates greenhouse gases

The biggest shake-up in the aluminium industry for a century was unveiled Thursday as Alcoa (NASDAQ:ALCO) and mining titan Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) announced the world's first carbon free smelting process to manufacture the metal.

It is a new technology to make aluminium, which is used in everything from window frames to smartphones, that produces oxygen rather than direct greenhouse gas emissions like the traditional smelting process.

Even tech titan Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is getting in on the act, backing the joint venture to the tune of C$13mln.

 

"Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come," said Tim Cook, Apple chief executive today.

"We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products."

The new venture will be called Elysis and will be headquartered in Montreal with a research facility in Quebec. Canada and Quebec are each investing C$60 mln in Elysis and Quebec will have a 3.5% equity stake.

Combined Alcoa, Rio Tinto, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and Apple will provide investment of C$188mln.

"Today’s announcement will create and maintain thousands of jobs for Canadians, significantly reduce Canada’s carbon footprint, and further strengthen the aluminium industry in North America," said Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

In Canada alone, the revolutionary technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5mln metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at all existing aluminium smelters in the country.

Aluminium production accounts for around 0.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions and demand for the metal is rising, not least because it is easy to recycle and makes for lighter cars and vehicles.

Smelting aluminum conventionally requires anodes made of carbon-rich material as carbon is a good conductor of electricity as well as being cheap.

Alcoa and Rio's new process involves the use of a proprietary material they invented and developed that can be used in place of carbon. When used in smelting, it releases oxygen instead.

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