MONTREAL (CP) -- Rio Tinto Alcan said it is on the path to recovery and expects aluminum sales will rebound to pre-recession levels within three years.
The head of the aluminum division of the global mining giant Rio Tinto PLC says long-term demand will grow by about four percent annually over the next two decades.
"This forecast is a very reasonable one," Jacynthe Cote said Friday during a speech to the Montreal Board of Trade.
"After all, if there's one sector with enormous growth potential, it's the aluminum industry."
Cote said the industry's recovery will be aided by the growing urbanisation and industrialization of the developing world.
India's per-capita demand for aluminum is only five percent that of industrialized countries. Chinese demand is still only half the 20 kilograms per person that used in the West, but is expected to double in a decade.
And demand in industrialized countries should grow by two to three percent per year.
Cote said Montreal-headquartered Rio Tinto Alcan is poised to benefit because of its fully integrated assets, its low-cost electrical supply and its advanced technology.
"We have the good fortune to be able to produce electricity here (in Quebec) from clean, renewable resources," she said.
"I am convinced that this advantage and our great talent for innovation will enable us to continue to meet the changing needs of international markets."
The last year has been tough on Rio Tinto Alcan and its thousands of employees, including 7,000 in Quebec.
Aluminum prices plummeted amid a dramatic drop in demand during the 2008-09 economic downturn, mainly because of significantly lower purchases from the struggling construction and automotive sectors.
Rio responded by cutting its costs by 25 percent as of June to preserve cash and avoid adding to global overproduction.
Many employees were "collateral damage" of the unavoidable cuts required by many industries, Cote told the group.
Cote said it could take time for the situation to turn around as governments look to trim budgets after allocating billions of dollars to stimulate the economy.
Published reports suggest Rio is preparing to reinstate billions of dollars of investments in Quebec later this year.
Meanwhile, Rio Tinto Alcan announced a $15 million grant over five years to support efforts to reduce student dropout rates. The funds come from its $200 million Canada Fund endowment established two years ago when Rio Tinto purchased Alcan for US$38 billion.