Rio Tinto’s Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said that Rio Tinto is in talks with Apple to move into the next phase of an agreement for a low-carbon aluminium smelting project. He said this during the inauguration of Rio’s new Amrun bauxite mine in northern Australia. The world’s top miner is looking at converting its aluminium business to adhere to a low-carbon economy.

Rio and Alcoa announced a joint venture in 2018, supported by Apple, to commercialize a smelting process by 2024 that emits oxygen and replaces all direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminium smelting.

“At the end of the day, what we can see is the customers of our customers want to have full traceability on their products, and they want to make sure they have a carbon-friendly product,” Jacques said.

The new low-carbon technology the miner is developing uses an anode made of ceramic instead of using the carbon anodes. This will ensure no amount of carbon is emitted by the pots and the smelter will not release any carbon into the atmosphere.

Rio Tinto has pledged substantial decarbonisation by 2050, is reorganizing its aluminium business for the long run to focus on transparency and carbon-economy across the supply chain.

“We are looking at the next wave of partnership with Apple,” Jacques said. No further details on the collaboration were provided during the announcement. He also said that if the new smelting technology proves commercially viable, Rio would convert all its existing smelters to that technology.

If the new smelting process under development proves commercially viable, he said, Rio would retrofit its entire fleet of existing smelters with the technology. The miner is also planning to have its Amrun bauxite mine certified by a scheme that signifies it is ethically sourced, given its land use, heritage and working agreements with local indigenous groups.

"(We will show) that Amrun is part of the supply chain, so we can demonstrate from the bauxite to the aluminum in your iPhone or in your laptop, we fully understand the entire chain and that is consistent with what customers like Apple want," Jacques added.

Rio is among Australia’s top five carbon emitters, according to combined data from the Clean Energy Regulator. In a climate report last month, Rio said it is on track to beat a target of reducing its emissions intensity by 24 per cent from 2008 levels by 2020.

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