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Why Apple Inc. has joined forces with Rio Tinto Limited

They may be a bit of an odd-couple but US tech titan Apple Inc. has entered into a joint venture with our mining giant Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO), according to the Australian Financial Review.

Talk about strange bedfellows but the union actually makes a lot of sense, although this is more a threesome as the largest US aluminium producer Alcoa Corp is also jumping into bed with the other two.

The AFR reports that this is Rio Tinto’s latest push to produce zero-emissions aluminium, the metal of choice for the world’s third largest smartphone maker (yes, Apple is behind Samsung and Huawei so it seems – not that it matters as Apple still made around 217 million iPhones in 2017 and that takes up a lot of aluminium!).

Rio Tinto already boasts that its key aluminium smelters in Canada is powered by hydro-electricity, although it’s only 66% emissions free.

Our mining giant wants to do the full Monty now to support its environmentally friendly “RenewAL” aluminium brand even if it means teaming up with rival Alcoa.

Rio Tinto is tipping C$55 million ($57.2 million) into the new JV called Elysis – a name from Greek mythology to describe a place where Gods want to go to die. Surely the three leaders in their industry aren’t prophesising their demise!

Apple is striving to use carbon neutral materials to make its range of popular products and is contributing C$13 million into the JV, while Alcoa will provide its patented core technology that is central to project’s success.

Elysis aims to launch a commercially viable product by 2024 and Apple’s clout with contract suppliers and manufacturers around the world will be an important driver for adoption of the emissions-free metal.

It just so happens that the price of aluminium has been surging recently to around its highest level since 2011 as the US imposed sanctions against Russian aluminium producer Rusal.

That has provided a big boost to the share prices of South32 Ltd (ASX: S32), the spin-off from BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP), and Alumina Limited (ASX: AWC).

The new green aluminium product should trade at a nice premium to the commodity although it is unclear how profits from the JV will be split given that Rio Tinto has not made any announcement to the ASX on Elysis.

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Motley Fool contributor Brendon Lau owns shares of BHP Billiton Limited, Rio Tinto Ltd., and South32 Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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