arth is a planet made of metal. Its mountains
of stone contain all the makings of modern
technology. From stents to siding, from
airplanes to automobiles, so many signs of
progress started out encased in rock.
Yet, while the planet’s resources are limited, our appetite for advancement knows
no bounds. To continue the march forward,
That’s why Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) began investing in aluminum R&D. As one of the lightest, most abundant metals in the
earth’s crust, aluminum often offers an affordable alternative to
heavier metals, such as iron-based steel.
When RTA, based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, learned its
research team had developed an aluminum smelting technology that promised to deliver 40 percent more product at lower
costs—and with fewer emissions—than any smelter currently on the market, it
knew this process would revolutionize the industry. It would push RTA to the head
of the pack. But first it needed to prove the technology would work.
The opportunity to act appeared in 2007. An RTA smelting facility in Jonquière,
Quebec, Canada, was reaching the end of its life and had to be replaced. Since a
capital investment would need to be made, the company decided the time was right
to roll out its AP60 smelting technology in the new plant. The AP60 Phase 1 project
would provide a template for the company’s future plant projects and showcase the
technology to potential customers.
“The ultimate goal was to prove the AP60 technology and get access to our business opportunity in the world,” says Michel Charron, project director, RTA, a PMI
Global Executive Council member.
To reach that goal, RTA needed help. The company turned to engineering and
construction firm SNC-Lavalin, also based in Quebec, and consulting engineering
From left, André Noël,
Michel Charron and
Marc O’Connor Project
Year of the
“The ultimate goal was to
prove the AP60 technology
and get access to our business
opportunity in the world.”
—Michel Charron, RTA, Montreal, Quebec, Canada