Premier John Horgan attends Rio Tinto celebrations

B.C. premier John Horgan was in Kitimat on Saturday to attend celebrations to mark Rio Tinto’s first year of full production following the $6 billion modernization project completed in 2015.

The celebrations included a tour of the plant by Horgan and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources minister Michelle Mungall, and the unveiling of a totem pole carved by Haisla Nation hereditary chief and master carver, Sammy Robinson.

In his speech Horgan said the new smelter is a great example of how companies could improve conditions for workers and reduce pollution all while improving the bottom line.

“Rio Tinto is producing twice as much aluminium with one-third of the electricity and half of the emissions produced by their previous plant,” said Horgan. “This means they are now producing some of the lowest carbon aluminium in the world, giving them a competitive advantage at a time when consumers are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the climate.”

Horgan added that Kitimat had always been rooted in the aluminium industry and that thanks to the efforts and the investment of Rio Tinto, that legacy would continue for decades to come.

“When Rio Tinto built this new smelter they were not just investing in their operations. They were investing in Kitimat,” said Horgan.

Rio Tinto Aluminium chief executive Alf Barrios said the original Kitimat smelter was the largest private sector investment in British Columbia when it was built in the 1950s.

“Now, more than 65 years later, Rio Tinto is proud to have again made the largest private sector investment in British Columbia’s history here at Kitimat,” said Barrios.

He said Rio Tinto had increased the smelter’s production capacity by close to 50 per cent, at the same time as improving environmental performance by halving overall emissions.

Haisla chief councillor Crystal Smith said the Haisla Nation Council is looking forward to continuing working with the new provincial government to bring further job opportunities to the region.

“In particular we look forward to the development of a liquefied natural gas industry which continues to have the support of Haisla Nation Council,” said Smith.

Horgan and Mungall also visited LNG Canada and Kitimat LNG while they were in Kitimat.

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Sammy Robinson blesses the new totem pole. Photo Gerry Leibel

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