Rio to close Lynemouth smelter, no plans for Bell Bay

 Rio Tinto has announced that it will shut the Lynemouth aluminium smelter in the UK, but reassured workers that it has no plans to do the same at the Bell Bay smelter in Tasmania.

According to the miner, it will shut the smelter in Northumberland on 29 March.

Jacynthe Côté, chief executive of Rio Tinto Alcan said she is "saddened by the closure of Lynemouth Smelter but we have reached this decision only after a thorough strategic review of the plant and a fair and transparent consultation process. 

"We will now focus on safely decommissioning the plant, working with our employees to mitigate the impact of redundancy on them and their families and partnering with all interested stakeholders on the future regional economic development of the Lynemouth site. We are in close contact with our customers to limit the impact on their businesses under the scope of our contractual agreements."

Just over 500 people are employed at the smelter, and 323 of those will be made redundant in May.

The move was foreshadowed last year by Rio’s announcement that it was divesting its interests in Australian and New Zealand aluminium assets as they ‘no longer aligned with the company strategy".

However the miner has since met with the Australian Workers’ Union to assure workers that there are no plans for closure of the plant, according to The Mercury.

AWU Tasmanian branch secretary Ian Wakefield stated that "Rio Tinto advised the union that it is in the process of developing a business plan to ensure the long-term viability of the Bell Bay plant.

"As part of that strategy, the company is looking at opportunities to reduce input costs and confirmed there is no current plan for closure, reduced production or redundancies.

"The union understands the current economic climate with the high Australian dollar and increasing input costs placing pressure on the Bell Bay smelter."

The smelter is understood to be losing around $200 000 per day.

The closure of the Lynemouth smelter is part of a global trend of smelters ceasing operations in first world countries, as Alcoa considers closing its Point Henry smelter, Norsk Hydro lays off workers at its Kurri Kurri smelter, and Xstrata winds down its smelting operations in Queensland.

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