Mining and Easter: Canada’s role in producing ‘green’ aluminum

This weekend, thousands of Canadian kids will scour gardens and parks for colorful treats left behind by the Easter bunny. Although quickly discarded for the chocolatey goodness inside, spare a thought for the aluminum foil wrapping.

The foil coating your Easter egg is a thin sheet of aluminium metal, the same material used for drink cans, food packaging, insulation, cables, electronics, car and aerospace parts, and buildings. Aluminium is strong, light, easy to shape, and acts as barrier protecting the food inside from light, air, moisture, and odors, and infinitely recyclable using just a fraction of the energy used to produce it.

Global demand for aluminum is projected to increase by almost 5 per cent between 2015 and 2020 and motor vehicle manufacturers are leading the charge. For every kilogram of aluminium that replaces a heavier material, greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are reduced by 20 kilograms over the life of the vehicle. Ford Motor Company, for example, released the F-150 pick-up truck in 2015 with an aluminum alloy body over a traditional frame. The truck is 318 kg lighter than the previous model and with fuel economy figures that are 5 to 29 per cent better than its predecessor.

Did you know: The aluminum produced in Canada has the lowest carbon footprint in the world?

Bauxite ore, the raw material used to make aluminum, is processed at ten smelters across Canada, employing about 8,300 people directly and 20,000 indirectly. Aluminum production is an energy-intensive process. At these smelters, Canada produces some of the greenest aluminum in the world, thanks to the abundant hydropower available in Canada and some world-leading innovative technology. 

Rio Tinto’s 60-year-old aluminum smelter in Kitimat, north-central British Columbia, recently underwent a $6 billion modernization to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of aluminum it produces. By replacing old smelter technology with new technology developed in Canada, while continuing to use reliable hydropower, the smelter now produces just two tonnes of GHG for every tonne of aluminum produced, a 36 per cent reduction. Aluminum produced in other parts of the world using older technology and electricity from coal-fired power plants can emit up to 20 tonnes of GHG per tonne of aluminum produced.

Such leadership in innovation and sustainable metal production contributes to the “Canada Brand” built on social responsibility, inclusive, globally-connected, innovative mining. Visit www.minescanada.ca to join the conversation and let us know what you think about the Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan.

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