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Rio Tinto Alcan's Yarwun refinery expansion project opens

Wednesday, Oct 24, 2012

  More than 600 employees, Gladstone community representatives and local Indigenous leaders joined with Rio Tinto Alcan and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman today to launch the $2.5 billion Yarwun alumina refinery expansion in Gladstone.

  President and chief executive officer of Rio Tinto Alcan Bauxite & Alumina, Pat Fiore, said he was delighted that a Traditional Owner representative from Weipa was also on hand to witness the opening.

  "The Yarwun expansion project more than doubles production at the refinery to 3.4 million tonnes of alumina per year, enhancing Rio Tinto Alcan's position as one of the world's leading bauxite and alumina producers," Mr Fiore said.

  "And just as importantly, today's opening highlights how the Yarwun expansion strengthens the economic, cultural and social ties between Gladstone and Western Cape York Peninsula.

  "Together, Rio Tinto Alcan's Queensland operations - Yarwun and QAL in Gladstone, and our Weipa bauxite mining operations - employ approximately 3,000 people and are mainstays of these important regional communities."

  Each year, the operations contribute more than $300 million in salaries and wages, $10 million in royalties and $6.5 million in community investments.

  "In Gladstone, the Yarwun expansion cements our commitment as a long-standing member of this community. Since construction of QAL in 1964, Rio Tinto Alcan has invested more than $500 million in community infrastructure and programmes, including housing, bridges and roads.

  "And as was the case with the construction of the original Yarwun refinery, investing in the local community was a priority throughout the construction of Yarwun 2."

  Mr Fiore said that during construction, $1.9 billion was spent on contracts and procurements throughout Australia, including:

  ? $360 million in Gladstone; and

  ? $1.4 billion in Queensland.

  Now operational, the refinery expansion provides additional employment for 250 Gladstone locals.

  "The commissioning of the refinery expansion allows additional volumes of bauxite to be processed more efficiently, at a lower cost," Mr Fiore said.

  "This means the expanded operations will improve operating costs for the entire Yarwun refinery and the Bauxite & Alumina portfolio."

  Mr Fiore said he was pleased so many of the Yarwun workforce were able to attend the opening, and he also thanked everyone involved in building the world-class facility, including employees.

  "Since its beginnings in 2007, the Yarwun expansion project experienced a volatile global economic environment - not least of which was the sudden arrival of the global financial crisis. The project team successfully responded to these challenges, and consistently delivered reliable assets safely, on time and on budget," Mr Fiore said.

  "A refinery is an incredibly complex system, with 230 kilometres of pipe and thousands of interfaces and chemical processes. Only being handed the plant less than four months ago, the expanded refinery is today running about 90 per cent capacity.

  "And what is most pleasing has been the relentless focus on safety - during design, commissioning and operation."

  Mr Fiore acknowledged the significant contribution the Queensland and Commonwealth governments had made to getting the first stage of the refinery off the ground.

  "We really appreciate that the Premier was able to join us today for this important occasion," Mr Fiore said. "Our key focus for the remainder of 2012 is to bring the expanded facility safely into stable operations so that we can gradually increase the plant's capacity to full production next year."

  About Rio Tinto

  Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and New York Stock Exchange listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

  Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, thermal and metallurgical coal, uranium, gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide and salt) and iron ore. Activities span the world and are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

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