MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto allies with Mid-East despots

Published by MAC on 2009-03-16

Although desperately trying to bail itself out of debt (notwithstanding the pending deal with Chinalco) and having sacked thousands of workers from its Alcan Canada operations, Rio Tinto has just signed two agreements presaging an integrated aluminium project with one of the world's most corrupt and despotic regimes.

Rio Tinto Alcan signs Saudi pacts

Montreal Gazette

2nd March 2009

Rio Tinto Alcan has signed two key agreements with the government-owned Saudi Arabian Mining Co. (Ma'aden) to further its mine-to-metal aluminum project in Saudi Arabia.

A technology transfer agreement provides Ma'aden with Rio Tinto Alcan's AP smelting technology, while a cooperation agreement provides for various other types of support including the secondment of personnel. The financial details of the transaction are not being disclosed, a company spokesman said.

"These agreements strengthen our presence in the Middle East and will enable Rio Tinto Alcan to explore opportunities in this important region," Sandeep Biswas, senior vice president, business development, said in a statement.

The deal represents the first industrial application of AP37 technology in a greenfield project, Alcan said. There are also provisions to upgrade the Ma'aden facility to AP39 technology in the future. Montreal-based Rio Tinto Alcan considers its AP technology the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly smelter technology commercially available.

Under the terms of the cooperation agreement, Rio Tinto Alcan will offer various types of support at Ma'aden's request, including technical services, secondment of key personnel, research and development assistance, management services and aluminum offtake support. Rio Tinto Alcan will also be involved with procurement and supply of alumina and other raw materials.

In 2007, before the economic downturn and Rio Tinto Group's acquisition of Alcan, the aluminum giant was tagged to develop and operate the integrated aluminum project featuring a bauxite mine, an alumina refinery and one of the world's largest smelters.

Last December, after Rio Tinto Group said it would slash capital spending and cut thousands of jobs, Rio Tinto Alcan announced that it was ending its equity partnership in the venture and look to the sort of agreements that were announced yesterday.

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