an aerial view of the early stages of Rio Tinto Alcan's Kitimat Modernization Project.

Rio Tinto Alcan getting modern in Kitimat

Kitimat is enjoying an economic boom and leading the increase in activity is the modernization of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum plant.

Kitimat is enjoying an economic boom unlike anything in the past three decades and leading the increase in activity is the modernization of the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum plant.

The $3.5 billion Kitimat Modernization Project (KMP) was announced in December 2011 and, since that time, the number of workers and companies setting up in town has only risen. At the end of February, there were 2,400 workers involved in the project with 1,300 of the 1,760 beds in the KMP camp filled and single-digit vacancy rates being experienced throughout town.

But those 2,400 workers are just the tip of the iceberg. KMP general manager Gaby Poirier expects the number of workers to peak in June when the camp and a 500-bed cruise ship, brought in to house workers, are both expected to be at capacity.

The project itself will increase the production of the nearly 60-year-old plant by 48 per cent to approximately 420,000 tonnes while utilizing more cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly technology than what is currently on site. The project itself is more than 65 per cent complete with construction of the new lines and plant components 40 per cent complete. The modernized smelter will be powered exclusively by wholly-owned hydropower and use Rio Tinto Alcan’s proprietary AP40 smelting technology to reduce the smelter’s carbon dioxide emissions intensity by approximately 50 per cent.

Poirier said the company is anticipating the commissioning of the plant and the first pour of aluminum will take place in the first quarter of 2015. Once the modernization is complete, the number of employees at the Kitimat plant will drop from 1,200 to 1,000, with the company planning to use natural attrition to make up most of the reduction in workers.

For more information on the project, visit www.kitimatworksmodernization.com.