Break-up sounds death knell for smelter

BREAKING up Lynemouth’s Alcan business for sale will sound the death knell for the smelter, a union boss has warned.

GMB Regional Secretary Tom Brennan has called on Rio Tinto to reconsider its plans to sell or close the operation.

But he says that if the company is set on the move, it must not separate the power station and smelter.

“We hear that there is interest in the power station and if that was sold off separately you could understand it being very useful in terms of a contribution to the National Grid, but by doing that it cuts off the lifeline to the Alcan smelter.

“In my view that would signal the death knell of Alcan,” he said.

The union has about 200 members among the 630-strong Alcan workforce and Mr Brennan said that finding a buyer for the site is vital.

But he is still unclear about the reasons behind the potential sale.

“We are in dialogue with the company first of all to try to persuade it to change track,” he said.

“We know it is a profitable business and the price of metals is on the up.

“It just seems to fly in the face of the need and use of these metals.

“I’m hugely disappointed by this announcement and I feel we haven’t got to the bottom of it yet.

“Is it just a means of raising money, or are there environmental issues and restrictions, or would it be too costly to modernise?

“First of all we need to bottom this out in terms of what is the real reason for the sale.”

He added: “The most important thing is securing the jobs. They are good jobs and Alcan has been a good employer. For that part of the North East they are vital for the economy.”

The union has also called for Government intervention to secure the site’s future.