MONTREAL, March 14 /PRNewswire/ - 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 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. 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SOURCE RIO TINTO ALCAN - EN