Rio to divest Australian alumina assets

 Rio Tinto has announced it will divest its interest in its Australian and New Zealand aluminum assets.

In a statement today, the miner says it will transfer these assets into a new business group, to be known as Pacific Aluminium, which will be managed separately from the Rio Tinto Alcan group prior to their divestment.

These assets include the Gove Bauxite mine and alumina refinery; the Boyne smelters and the Gladstone Power Station; the Tomago smelter; and the Bell bay smelter, while in New Zealand it will divest the New Zealand Aluminium smelters.

It is also investigating the potential divestment of three alumina plants in Germany and France, as well as the Gardanne refinery, the Sebree smelter in the US, and the Lynemouth smelter and power station in the UK, which may be closed instead.

Rio Tinto chief Tom Albanese said the "assets identified for divestment are sounds businesses….but are no longer aligned with our strategy".

However, Albanese did not put a timeline on the move, stating that "we can choose the most opportune method and timing to divest these assets, which may not occur until the economic climate improves".

Jacynthe Cote, Rio Tinto Alcan’s CEO, said "streamlining the product group allows Rio Tinto Alcan to concentrate its efforts on improvements".

Sandeep Biswas has been named as the new CEO for the Pacific Aluminium Group, and will report to Rio’s business support & operations group exec Bret Clayton.

Rio Tinto Alcan has had a number of problems at its Bell Bay operations in Tasmania, after it was accused of breaking International Labor Organisation (ILO) conventions.

The AWU claim that the Bell Bay employees have been “harassed and intimidated’ due to their union links.

Some of the alleged intimidation included workers being paid $20 000 less than their mainland compatriots, as well as denying employees access to a crib room to meet on health and safety issues. 

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