Smelter bid refusal was the right decision

ALCAN officials have spoken of their relief at turning down a bid for the smelter last year.

Director John McCabe said the potential buyer already operated a larger smelter in Holland and put forward a business plan to buy the Lynemouth site, but it required financial support from Rio Tinto Alcan, the Government and the future buyer of the power station.

The business also warned that it would slash at least 160 jobs at Lynemouth, while cutting costs by renegotiating the terms and conditions of remaining staff.

After expert analysis of the proposal, Rio Tinto rejected the bid, believing the buyer could have business problems, and in December its Holland plant went into administration.

Mr McCabe said: “That was a glimmer of hope that we could have just grasped, but if we had where would we be now?

“The smelter would be operated by an owner whose smelter would go into administration, the workforce would have been far reduced and the ones left would still be losing their jobs, but on lesser terms.

“On reflection it was right that we didn’t pursue that. We have to be really careful about these sorts of expressions of interest, but we will always speak to people.”

His comments came at a public meeting last week after he was asked if Rio Tinto would provide financial assistance to potential buyers.

“We can’t just become a crutch to whoever comes along and prop something up – that is just delaying the inevitable. The community has to try to find a solution that is self sustaining,” said Mr McCabe.

“We are not going to be here forever, but we have to make sure we leave a legacy.

“There will be a pretty significant investment made by Rio Tinto, but we are not just talking about money. That would probably be the easiest thing in the world to do, to write a few cheques, but how self sustaining is that?”