SEPT-ILES, Que.—North America’s largest aluminum smelter will become even larger once the Alouette aluminum joint venture completes a $2 billion investment over the next 15 years.
The facility, which is the 10th largest in the world, will boost production capacity after Hydro-Quebec agreed to allocate 500 megawatts of cheap electricity after Dec. 2015.
The project will add 216 smelting pots, costing $1.5 billion and develop a new low-energy consumption technology to create 1,500 jobs in the province.
In addition to 300 direct jobs at the facility in Sept Iles, investments will create more than 1,000 aluminum jobs in Quebec.
Demand for aluminum has grown for the automotive, aircraft, packaging and infrastructure industries around the world, especially in rapidly growing economies like Asia.
Electricity is a key component of making aluminum and the cheapest industrial rate provided by Hydro-Quebec will make Alouette among the lowest-cost producers.
The utility has also extended its energy supply contract for the existing Alouette facility to 2041.
The third phase of the Alouette expansion will increase the production capacity by more than 60 per cent to 930,000 tons of aluminum per year from 575,000 tons.
In addition to the operational jobs, the construction phase is expected to support 15,000 jobs each year in Quebec.
Alouette will contribute up to $75 million to Quebec’s economic development fund and invest $10 million to create an industrial chair on carbon research with the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi.
The project calls for more than 1,000 jobs to be created through partnerships with equipment manufacturers and suppliers with First Nations communities.
A similar agreement signed in 2002 for the second phase was slated to create 1,010 jobs by 2012 but had created 1,617 by Dec. 2010.
The plant has 18 electrolysis test cells used to uncover ways to reduce energy consumption per ton of aluminum produced. Currently, 12,700 kWh/t of aluminum is required, the lowest of any aluminum smelter in the world.
Mining-giant Rio Tinto Alcan owns 40 per cent of the smelter, whose other partners include Austria Metall, Hydro Aluminum of Norway, Investissement Quebec and Marubeni of Japan.