Our BC Works operation, in Kitimat, British Columbia, comprises a newly modernised aluminium smelter and the Kemano Powerhouse, a hydropower facility supplied by the Nechako reservoir. From Canada’s west coast, we transport our 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, we 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 recognised standard for responsible environmental, social and governance practices.
Investing in the future
When BC Works opened in 1954, it was the world’s largest smelter powered by hydroelectricity. Today, following a C$6 billion investment to modernise the smelter, the aluminium we produce here has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. The upgrade, completed in 2016, included installing smelting equipment that uses our state-of-the-art AP Technology, making BC Works not only more efficient and commercially competitive but also cleaner: we now produce twice as much aluminium as we did previously, with half the greenhouse gas emissions.
Benefits of the modernised smelter, one of the largest private construction projects in British Columbia’s history, include:
- energy efficiency
- leading-edge digital monitoring and computer control systems
- revolutionary efficiency and performance in dry scrubbing (cleaning) systems
- high levels of material recovery to maximise raw material yield and recycling opportunities
Our 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, we 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. The project is expected to be complete in the second half of 2022.
BC Works Smelter Restart Permit Temporary Amendment Extension
Rio Tinto’s BC Works aluminium smelter in Kitimat started to progressively increase its production following the resolution of a labour dispute last year that shut down much of the smelter’s operation. The restart of production at the smelter has started in 2022 and will continue in 2023. A public consultation to amend our P2 permit to support our restart activities took place last year. As the return to normal operations for the smelter is taking longer than expected, we are applying to the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to extend the emission limits associated with the pot starts. We are committed to protecting our community’s interests to ensure a zero-harm restart and are confident that we can be a world class smelter built on care and respect for our employees, their families, our contractors, customers, and the place we call home. We are notifying the public about our application to extend our Permit temporary amendment.
In 1999, BC Works became the first industrial facility in British Columbia to obtain what is called a “multi-media environmental permit” from the provincial government. This permit sets standards of operation and requires annual reporting on a variety of performance measures: air emissions, ambient air quality, effluents, groundwater, vegetation and waste management. The yearly performance of the smelter is published in our operation’s Annual Environmental Report.
We are focused on minimising the impacts of our operation on the environment. Our Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) programme, which is based on an Adaptive Management Approach that commits us to extensive monitoring, regular reporting and taking measurable actions, as needed, monitors and reports on sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from our smelter.
We also host a consultation community group, the Kitimat Public Advisory Committee (KPAC), which meets on a quarterly basis and reviews BC Works’ environmental performance and business operations.
In 2019, we partnered with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to establish the NSERC/Rio Tinto Senior Industrial Research Chair in Climate Change and Water Security, advancing research programmes in the region and providing first-hand learning opportunities for students. We are also a founding member of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative, which researches and monitors the endangered White Sturgeon, aiming to stabilise the remaining population and prevent further declines, with the ultimate goal of rebuilding a self-sustaining population.
Contact BC Works
Kitimat community office
PO Box 1800
1 Smeltersite Road
Kitimat BC V8C 2H2, Canada
E: BC Works Enquiries
T: +1 250 639 8383
Burns Lake office
PO Box 936
Unit 3B, 321 Highway
16 Evergreen Mall BC VOJ 1E0
E: Nechako Reservoir Enquiries
T: +1 250 692 9618
PO Box 25
158 Stewart Street
Vanderhoof BC V0J 3A0, Canada
E: Nechako Reservoir Enquiries
T: +1 250 692 9618
T: +1 250 639 8601
T: +1 250 639 8446
T: +1 250 639 8273