Quebecers are right to be proud of their hydroelectricity. This clean energy has allowed Quebec to build a unique industrial complex that is the envy of the world.
I speak with full knowledge of the facts, having traveled to several countries before moving to Montreal with my family in the fall of 2021 to take the helm of Rio Tinto Aluminium. I was immediately impressed by the long and rich history of Quebec aluminum, particularly in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.
With the acquisition of Alcan some 15 years ago, Rio Tinto became a trustee of this tradition, a responsibility we take very seriously. As Rio Tinto celebrates its 150th anniversary, our commitment to Quebec is stronger than ever. Today, all of Rio Tinto’s Quebec activities represent approximately 17,500 direct and indirect well-paid jobs, especially in the regions.
These investments took place at a time when our industry was undergoing significant upheaval, marked by fierce global competition, and low prices favoring aluminum producers in Asia and the Middle East. In this context, our sector has also been affected by the deindustrialisation observed in the Western world.
Despite the low profitability of these activities, Rio Tinto Aluminum has never stopped investing here in North America, unlike many of our competitors. Our confidence in this metal of the future is linked to a vision of the energy transition which recognizes the significant growth potential that this transition represents for green aluminium, but also for high quality iron and other critical minerals and strategic.
Thanks to hydroelectricity, Quebec aluminum is already the greenest in the world. Although we are heavily dependent on hydroelectric power that we generate ourselves and use less than 1% of all Hydro-Québec electricity production, our dams are integrated into the grid so that Quebec can also count on our energy in times of need.
We are also doing good work by continuing to invest in technologies that will decarbonize aluminum. Thanks to ELYSIS, a joint venture in which we invest with Alcoa and the support of the governments of Canada and Quebec, we are developing a technology that is on the way to revolutionizing the production of aluminum by emitting not greenhouse gases, but pure oxygen. It is with pride that we are preparing the very first deployment of this incredible technology in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean.
With the focus on decarbonization and the energy transition, we expect demand for aluminum, green steel, battery materials and other materials used in renewable energy generation to be very strong over the decades to come. Québec is well positioned to reap the benefits and consolidate its world leadership in this area. No Quebec product is exported more than aluminum.
Quebec has several assets to attract significant private investment to its territory: a skilled workforce, high-quality educational institutions, a stable regulatory environment, soil rich in minerals, clean energy and access directly to the North American market.
Quebec is right to want to become greener and more prosperous. We will continue to do our part to achieve these ambitious goals. We will be there to make Quebec a leader in green aluminum and critical and strategic minerals. Rio Tinto may be 150 years old, but our story in Quebec has only just begun.