Construction on our world-class Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, in Queensland, Australia, began in 2002, and the first alumina shipped in late 2004.
Expansions in 2012 doubled production, and today, Yarwun produces more than three million tonnes of alumina per year, which is exported to customers in Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific region.
Innovation at Yarwun
In 2018, Gladstone became the home of innovation – Rio Tinto’s Queensland Research and Development Centre (QRDC) relocated within Australia from Brisbane to Yarwun Refinery.
QRDC is Rio Tinto’s global centre for technology, research and development in the alumina refining process. The move confirms the need for our Research & Development team to be closer to the operations as a series of potentially game-changing technologies will be trialled in the coming years.
The QRDC provides laboratory and technical support to the Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) and Yarwun Alumina refineries, northern Australia bauxite mines, and to the Rio Tinto Commercial group supporting bauxite sales into China.
The Yarwun and QAL refineries provide test platforms for our bauxite technologies globally, which helps market our northern Australian bauxite all around the world.
In 2019, the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) granted its Performance Standard and Chain of Custody certifications to our Yarwun alumina refinery. ASI certification means customers can be assured that the aluminium they purchase has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to human rights.
Partnering for a green industrial future for Central Queensland
In October 2021, we signed a statement of cooperation with the Queensland Government to seize the opportunities presented by clean energy and make Central Queensland an industrial and renewable energy powerhouse.
Our contribution to the broader Gladstone community is through Here for Gladstone, which is supported by Rio Tinto Yarwun, Boyne Smelters Limited and QAL. Here For Gladstone's formal programmes are governed by a Board made up of community and business leaders.
Rio Tinto Here for Gladstone has invested A $7.2 million into the Gladstone community across a wide range of projects to improve the health, livelihood and welfare of the Gladstone community.
For example, feedback showed the Gladstone community was concerned about economic development and diversification. So, in consultation with the community, we launched the Here for Business programme in late 2017 that provides free business coaching and interest-free micro-finance loans to new or expanding businesses. To date, more than 33 businesses have participated in the programme and more than 90 local jobs have been created.
At Yarwun, we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land in the Port Curtis Coral Coast region: the Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng & Taribelang Bunda peoples.
We protect cultural heritage sites identified during archaeological surveys before the operation was built by safekeeping artefacts and protecting important scar tree sites from disturbance.
Cultural awareness is also important to our culture at site; all of our employees must undergo cultural awareness training before starting their job at Yarwun.
We contribute in many ways to the Queensland and Gladstone economy, including by sourcing goods and services locally wherever possible. In 2021 alone, we spent more than A$114 million with local businesses, and $203,000 with Indigenous-owned businesses in Queensland.