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Alcoa: Closure of smelters in Quebec has no impact on Massena

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MASSENA - A spokesperson for Alcoa’s Massena operations said the company’s decision to postpone modernization at its Baie-Comeau smelter in Quebec has no impact on either of the two plants in Massena.

“Yesterday’s (Thursday) release about Baie-Comeau doesn’t have anything to do with Massena or our project. It’s about the status of that plant,” Alcoa spokesperson Laurie A. Marr said.

In a release posted Thursday on the company’s website, Alcoa announced it was postponing the planned modernization of the Baie-Comeau Smelter until 2019. The work had originally been planned for 2016.

“Alcoa announced today (Thursday) it is postponing construction of a new potline at its Baie-Comeau smelter in Quebec as part of a revised modernization plan for the smelter, but will begin preparations for the upgrade by investing $100 million in the smelter over the next three years and by permanently closing the plants two Soderberg potlines,” the release stated.

According to the release, the reason for the announcement was “due to current market conditions.”

Ms. Marr confirmed that Soderberg potlines are also in used at Alcoa’s East plant.

“That’s why the modernization project is planned at East,” she wrote, “to “modernize the plant to more updated smelting technology.”

The two potlines in Quebec are scheduled to be closed by August.

The release indicates that the closure of those potlines if part of a review of 460,000 metric tons that the company is conducting over the next 15 months.

That review was detailed in release dated May 1.

“The review will include facilities across the Alcoa system and will focus on higher-cost plants and plants that have long-term risk due to factors such as energy costs or regularity uncertainty,” the release stated.

In a statement included in the May 1 release, Alcoa Global Primary Products President Chris Ayers said, “Because of persistent weakness in global aluminum prices, we need to review every option to maintain Alcoa’s competitiveness. Any action taken will only be done after a thorough strategic review and consultations with stakeholders.”

Alcoa has pledged to spend $42 million for site work and support projects that would begin in June and contribute $10 million toward economic development in the north country, money that would be distributed by NYPA, as the first phase in its modernization plan. Alcoa officials have said they have already invested $40 million in planning work for the proposed modernization project.

In exchange for modernizing, the contract guarantees Alcoa low-cost hydropower for the next 30 years, with an option to extend the contract another 10 years depending on economic conditions.

However, Alcoa has also said that its decision to modernize is contingent on whether the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chooses to move ahead on its proposed Grasse River remediation project, an estimated $245 million project to be paid for entirely by Alcoa.

Alcoa’s website says the modernization project calls for the construction of a new potline at Massena East, which will produce 144,000 metric tons of aluminum per year, upgrades to existing facilities at Massena West and modifications to other existing facilities that will help integrate the two plants and support the new potline. “The most significant part of the project is building a new potroom at the East Plant and replacing the current “Soderberg technology at that facility with the more modernpre-bak” technology like what is currently used at the West Plant. The new potroom at Massena East will be similar in appearance and operation to the Massena West potrooms,” according to a release posted on the Alcoa website.

“Work to be done through 2015 in preparation for construction of the potline includes the relocation of transmission lines; upgrades to the East Plant’s ore gallery, which is a conveyor system that transports alumina within the plant; installation of a power management system which will allow Alcoa to better manage electricity consumption at both plants; grading of the site and the installation of a new substation in partnership with the New York Power Authority,” the release said.

The Alcoa release said once the modernization project is completed the East Plant will see significant improvements in air quality and emissions, less waste generated in the aluminum-making process and a significant reduction in the amount of dust employees have to work around.

The Project will cost at least $600 million, as required by the power contract, and will employ several hundred temporary construction workers throughout the course of the major construction phase.

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