Rio Tinto Alcan

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Mining-alcans-60px.jpg This article is part of the Mining and Metals project of Spinwatch

Rio Tinto Alcan is the biggest aluminium company in the world, formed by the takeover of Alcan by Rio Tinto in 2007.

They own or joint own 6 bauxite mines in four countries, 10 alumina refineries in five countries, 23 aluminium smelters in 10 countries and 12 power generating plants including nine hydroelectric facilities[1]. They currently operate 2 smelters in the UK, at Lynemouth, Northumberland and Lochaber, Scotland, and also joint operated the Anglesey Aluminium smelter in North Wales which closed in 2009.

In 2008 they produced 35 million tonnes of bauxite, 9 million tonnes of alumina and 4 million tonnes of aluminium.[2]

Part of the solution?

Rio Tinto Alcan's website contains a large section on sustainability, climate change and human rights, claiming to be 'part of the solution' to these problems, rather than the cause of them. For example they state:

We believe that our environmental responsibilities go beyond those required by law. They also encompass social obligations, leadership in sustainable development and minimising environmental impacts[3].

In contrast both Alcan and Rio Tinto have a record of environmental and human rights abuses. War on Want's 2007 report on British mining companies exploitation of conflict zones Fanning the Flames highlighted Rio Tinto's £61 million profit from its stake in the Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua, Indonesia, "where local people have suffered years of serious human rights and environmental abuse"[4]

In June 2010 the International Business Times reported that a spill of up to 70,000 litres of unleaded fuel had occurred at a Rio Tinto Alcan mine at Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula, Australia[5].

Aluminium is the most energy intensive metal to produce, and accounts for ca. 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, producing 13.1 tons of CO2 equivalent per ton of aluminium. This figure excludes emissions from hydro-electric dams which are mostly used to power aluminium smelters due to their high and continuous energy requirements[6].

War Profiteer

In December 2007 War Resisters International named Rio Tinto Alcan 'War Profiteer of the Month'. It noted that:

In 2004 Alcan's Engineered Products Business group Aerospace business unite generated $ 1,155 billion in operating revenue. Sixteen percent of this total came from sales to customers in the military and space industries. This financial data is not insignificant, and given that the former Alcan claimed to be a "key supplier to both European and North American military markets", it is clear that the company now own by Rio Tinto and call Rio TInto Alcan is involved in the arms trade. Through a company acquired in 2003, Baltek, Alcan is supplying some of the world's largest builders of military equipment. Some of Baltek's main customers include: Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin[7].

Approximately 30% of aluminium is used for arms manufacture and defence.[8] [9]. This fact is disguised in industry figures as 'transport' or 'construction' but is evident in aluminium's status as a 'strategic metal' for the US and UK governments, which is stockpiled for military purposes [10].

Arms Industry

Alcan Global Aerospace is the defence and aerospace subsidiary of Rio Tinto Alcan (chaired by Christophe Villemin in 2010) which became part of Constellium in 2011 when Alcan Engineered products was acquired by Apollo (51%) and FSI (10%), leaving Rio Tinto with the remaining 39%. Aerospace and defence applications now appears as just one part of Constellium's business which also includes transport, packaging, automotive and building applications.[11]

Constellium lead the European aerospace plate market and are co-leader worldwide alongside Alcoa[12] supplying Lockheed Martin with alloys for F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) jets[13], as well as BAE Systems, Bell Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, EADS, Dassault and GKN.[14]

EADS produce military helicopters, military satellites, the Eurofighter Tycoon, Mirage F1, EF18 Hornet and other jets[15] and are one of the world’s leading producers of missiles[16].



Board of Directors in July 2010

  • Chris Salisbury, chief operating officer, Bauxite and Alumina Pacific, has bee acting as interim president and CEO as of 19 April 2010[18].

Board of Directors in February 2012

Lobbying firms

Former lobbying firms



  1. Rio Tinto Alcan website Who we are, Business Overview Accessed 15/07/10
  2. Rio Tinto Alcan website Who we are, Business Overview Accessed 15/07/10
  3. Rio Tinto Alcan Our Approach, Environment Accessed 15/07/10
  4. Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, Tuesday 20 November 2007. Mining accused of complicity in rights violations Accessed 15/07/10
  5. International Business Times, Jun 14, 2010 Rio Tinto refinery oil leak under investigation Accessed 15/07/10
  6. Jaap Krater and Miriam Rose, 'Development of Iceland’s geothermal energy potential for aluminium production– a critical analysis',In: Abrahamsky, K. (ed) (2009). Sparking a World-wide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-Petrol World. AK Press, Edinburgh.
  7. War Resisters International War Profiteer of the month, Dec 2007 Accessed 15/07/10
  8. Clapham, M., UK Parliament, House of Commons. 1998. Rio Tinto Corporation. Early day motion 1194.HMSO, London.
  9. Das, S. and Padel, F. 2010,'Out of this earth: East India Adivasis and the aluminium cartel' Orient Blackswan
  10. Anderson, Dewey (1951) Aluminum for Defence and Prosperity. Washington, US Public Affairs Institute.
  11. Constellium website Who we are Accessed 20/02/2012
  12. Constellium Aerospace Accessed 20/02/2012
  13. Constellium website Who we are Accessed 20/02/2012
  14. Constellium website, Aerospace Military Aircraft link Accessed 20/02/2012
  15. EADS website Defence and Security Accesed 15/07/10
  16. EADS promotion film a brief glance at EADS Accessed 15/07/10
  17. Rio Tinto Alcan website Management Overview Accessed 15/07/10
  18. Rio Tinto Alcan website Management Overview Accessed 15/07/10
  19. Rio Tinto Alcan website Management Overview Accessed 20/02/2012
  20. Register Entry for 1 September 2008 to 30 November 2008 APPC, accessed 28 January 2015