14 March 2008

Malaysian government gives stamp of approval for SALCO smelter

Rio Tinto Alcan and Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMS)'s proposed US$2 billion (approximately RM7 billion) world-class aluminium smelter project in Similajau, in the state of Sarawak, has made significant progress with the granting of a manufacturing licence by the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority.

"This is a clear demonstration of the Malaysian federal government's confidence in the SALCO smelter project," stated Sandeep Biswas, senior vice president, business development, Rio Tinto Alcan. "The Federal Government's support, through the granting of the licence from the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, is a recognition of the significant benefits the SALCO smelter can deliver for Malaysia and Sarawak."

The proposed smelter will have a production capacity of 550,000 tonnes per year in its initial phase, with the capability to be expanded to 1.5 million tonnes. It is expected to contribute up to RM2.4 billion annually to Malaysia's GDP, and could generate up to 4,700 direct and indirect jobs.

CMS group managing director Dato' Richard Curtis, in thanking the federal government for its support said: "SALCO looks forward to working with both the federal and Sarawak state governments to develop a truly outstanding project. The Sarawak state government and its agencies have also played a significant role in the progress of the SALCO smelter project," he concluded.

Rio Tinto Alcan and CMS signed a Heads of Agreement in August 2007 to commence feasibility studies for the development of the SALCO smelter. A detailed environmental impact assessment has commenced and international engineering consultant Bechtel has been appointed to undertake an engineering study. As well, in February 2008, Rio Tinto Alcan and CMS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sarawak Energy Behard to allow negotiations to commence on power for the smelter. The MoU was signed during the launch of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE) in Bintulu.

The Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) is an agency of the Malaysian government established to promote and coordinate industrial development. All companies engaged in manufacturing in Malaysia must obtain a manufacturing licence.


About SALCO

Sarawak Aluminium Company (SALCO), a joint-venture owned by Rio Tinto Alcan (60%) and Cahya Mata Sarawak (40%), is undertaking studies to develop an aluminium smelter in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. Rio Tinto Alcan, the new global leader in aluminium, owns bauxite mines, alumina refineries and aluminium smelters, and has extensive experience in the design, engineering, construction, commissioning and operation of world-class aluminium smelters. CMS is the largest conglomerate in Sarawak. Its operations span construction and property development, construction materials, road maintenance, financial services, trading, technology and education. For more information, please visit http://www.salco.com.my/


About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal and uranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) and iron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa.


Forward-Looking Statements 

This announcement includes "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. All statements other than statements of historical facts included in this announcement, including, without limitation, those regarding Rio Tinto's financial position, business strategy, plans and objectives of management for future operations (including development plans and objectives relating to Rio Tinto's products, production forecasts and reserve and resource positions), are forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Rio Tinto, or industry results, to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.

Such forward-looking statements are based on numerous assumptions regarding Rio Tinto's present and future business strategies and the environment in which Rio Tinto will operate in the future. Among the important factors that could cause Rio Tinto's actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements include, among others, levels of actual production during any period, levels of demand and market prices, the ability to produce and transport products profitably, the impact of foreign currency exchange rates on market prices and operating costs, operational problems, political uncertainty and economic conditions in relevant areas of the world, the actions of competitors, activities by governmental authorities such as changes in taxation or regulation and such other risk factors identified in Rio Tinto's most recent Annual Report on Form 20-F filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC") or Form 6-Ks furnished to the SEC. Forward-looking statements should, therefore, be construed in light of such risk factors and undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Rio Tinto expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking (except as required by applicable law, the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers (the "Takeover Code"), the UK Listing Rules, the Disclosure and Transparency Rules of the Financial Services Authority and the Listing Rules of the Australian Securities Exchange) to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement contained herein to reflect any change in Rio Tinto's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

Nothing in this announcement should be interpreted to mean that future earnings per share of Rio Tinto plc or Rio Tinto Limited will necessarily match or exceed its historical published earnings per share.

Subject to the requirements of the Takeover Code, none of Rio Tinto, any of its officers or any person named in this announcement with their consent or any person involved in the preparation of this announcement makes any representation or warranty (either express or implied) or gives any assurance that the implied values, anticipated results, performance or achievements expressed or implied in forward-looking statements contained in this announcement will be achieved.


For further information, please contact:

Media Relations, Australia
Ian Head
Office:  +61 (0) 3 9283 3620
Mobile: +61 (0) 408 360 101

Amanda Buckley
Office:  +61 (0) 3 9283 3627
Mobile: +61 (0) 419 801 349

Rio Tinto Alcan Media Relations, Montreal
Stefano Bertolli
Tel.: +1-514-848-8151

Media Relations, London
Christina Mills
Office: +44 (0) 20 7781 1154
Mobile: +44 (0) 7825 275 605

Nick Cobban
Office:  +44 (0) 20 7781 1138
Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 041 003

Media Relations, US
Nancy Ives    
Mobile: +1 619 540 3751

Investor Relations, London
Nigel Jones
Office: +44 (0) 20 7753 2401
Mobile: +44 (0) 7917 227 365

David Ovington
Office:  +44 (0) 20 7753 2326
Mobile: +44 (0) 7920 010 978

Investor Relations, North America
Jason Combes
Office:  +1 (0) 801 685 4535
Mobile: +1 (0) 801 558 2645

Investor Relations, Australia
Dave Skinner
Office:  +61 (0) 3 9283 3628
Mobile: +61 (0) 408 335 309

Simon Ellinor
Office:+ 61 (0) 7 3867 1068


Email: questions@riotinto.com

High resolution photographs available at: http://www.newscast.co.uk/