Rio Tinto’s BC Works operation, in Kitimat, British Columbia, comprises a newly modernized aluminium smelter and the Kemano Powerhouse, a hydropower facility supplied by the Nechako reservoir. From Canada’s west coast, Rio Tinto transports its products by ship and rail, primarily to customers in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
With a total contribution of over C$842 million to the British Columbia economy in 2019, they are one of the single largest contributors to the province’s manufacturing GDP.
In 2019, BC Works was certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) for producing aluminium to the highest internationally recognized standard for responsible environmental, social, and governance practices.
When BC Works opened in 1954, it was the world’s largest smelter powered by hydroelectricity. Today, following a C$6 billion investment to modernize the smelter, the aluminium produced here has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. The upgrade, completed in 2016, included installing smelting equipment that uses state-of-the-art AP Technology, making BC Works not only more efficient and commercially competitive but also cleaner: it now produce twice as much aluminium as it did previously, with half the greenhouse gas emissions.
Benefits of the modernized smelter, one of the largest private construction projects in British Columbia’s history, include:
Their Kemano Powerhouse receives water from the Nechako Reservoir via a single tunnel that is more than 65 years old, and is even today the largest high-pressure hydropower generation facility in North America. In 2017, Rio Tinto announced an investment of C$600 million in a second tunnel at Kemano to ensure that the power to our smelter remains secure and sustainable.
A tunnel boring machine, named tl’ughus by the Cheslatta Carrier Nation after a legendary giant monster snake, cut 7.6 kilometres through the rock in remote mountains over 30 months, completing the route for a 16 kilometre tunnel that was started in the early 1990s.