Blackout brings plant to a standstill

AN electricity blackout brought production to a standstill at Lynemouth’s troubled Alcan plant.

Lynemouth Power Station lost all power just before midnight on Tuesday and while partial power was restored at 2am yesterday, it went off again just 40 minutes later.

Some power was again restored to the Rio Tinto site at 8am, but the incident left Line 2 of the aluminium smelter out of operation and when the Herald went to print yesterday, staff were still trying to stabilise Line 1.

No one was injured in the incident, which happened during normal operational activity, and no environmental damage was caused.

Emergency procedures were launched by the company, but officials said there was no safety risk to the wider community.

Corporate Affairs Director John McCabe said: “We don’t know what caused it yet, we still need to investigate exactly what the cause was.

“Our priority for now really is to try to stabilise the operation as quickly as we can and try to get as much power back into the plant as quickly as we can.

“The investigations will happen, but that is not the priority for now.”

The incident comes just weeks after Rio Tinto announced it was planning to close the smelter and try to sell off the power station, putting more than 600 jobs at risk.

Unions were due to meet managers yesterday afternoon to find out what, if any, impact the power cut will have on the future of the plant.

Mr McCabe said: “It is too early to be precise about the longer term implications for the plant and the business. The priority is to stabilise the plant as best we can and as quickly as we can. We will investigate the cause and the longer-term considerations later.”

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The GMB union has launched a Save Our Smelter petition, calling for Government intervention to keep the plant open.

Regional Organiser Keir Howe said: “We are expecting strong support from the local community and businesses, but the petition will only run for a short period because time is running out for Alcan.

“It aims to show the strength of support to keep the site open because we need the Government to intervene.”

The petition is available to sign online until January 6 at