Where to for smelter?
ALCOA’S bosses are tight-lipped about exactly where in the world they will close smelting and refining operations, but one thing seems clear – Portland’s future will be in the hands of the next power supply agreement.
As reported in Friday’s Observer, the US-based multinational said it remained committed to securing a long-term future for the Portland Aluminium smelter, in the wake of a review of its smelting and refining operations worldwide.
Alcoa is conducting the review on the back of losing more than $900 million worldwide in the past six months, including $326m in the past three months, while it also wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of 85 per cent of its smelting capacity to be powered by renewable energy.
Lower prices for aluminium worldwide have hurt smelter profitability in recent times.
The news sparked a wave of headlines in national media suggesting Portland was under imminent threat of closure.
But Australian Workers Union state secretary Ben Davis said in many ways it didn’t make sense if Portland was on the chopping block.
“In an international sense Portland is a new asset and is relatively small, so how much difference it would make to that bottom line I don’t know,” he told the Observer.
Alcoa chief executive Roy Harvey and chief financial officer Bill Oplinger would not name what assets they were looking at selling or closing.
“We’re being a bit careful about revealing exactly what plants that targets,” Mr Harvey told financial analysts at a briefing last week.
“Part of that is to give us options and flexibility as we work through our portfolio.”
He suggested that high-cost plants and those that had cut back production were most under threat.