Aluminerie Alouette on Quebec's Lower North Shore is pushing ahead with a $2-billion expansion of the facility after clinching a low-cost electricity deal with the province.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest on Monday announced the agreement in which Hydro-Québec to provide the Alouette consortium with a 500-megawatt block of power.
Alouette, North America's biggest aluminum smelter, is 40 per cent owned by Rio Tinto Alcan ; the balance is held by Investissement Québec and four other investors.
The expansion project, known as Phase III and which is to take place over a 15-year period, will increase capacity to 930,000 tonnes per year from the current 575,000 tonnes.
Mr. Charest described the expansion as "one of the most important economic projects in Quebec."
The agreement with Quebec will give Alouette an assured volume of electricity at a discounted industrial rate, thus making the facility one of the lowest-cost aluminum complexes in the world.
Massive amounts of electricity are needed in the transformation of bauxite into aluminum.
"This is an essential step in the realization of our project and to ensure the smelter's future," Alouette chief executive André Martel said in a news release.
Quebec says the deal to provide electricity is part of its massive Plan Nord program to develop the northern reaches of the province.