Malaysian government gives stamp of approval for SALCO smelter



    MONTREAL, March 14 /CNW Telbec/ - 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
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and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or
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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:

For further information: 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, (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, questions@riotinto.com,
www.riotinto.com; High resolution photographs available at:
www.newscast.co.uk

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