Closure threat at Alcan

MORE than 500 jobs are at risk in Northumberland as Lynemouth’s smelter and power station are put up for sale.

Rio Tinto Alcan announced today that the plant will be one of 13 assets worldwide to be sold.

But while talks are proceeding well to sell the power station, which provides 120 jobs, there is no buyer on the table for the smelter, which has a workforce of 510, and the company accepts it may close.

Meetings have taken place with staff today following the announcement and senior management will also meet with nightshift workers this evening.

Rio Tinto Chief Executive Tom Albanese said: “The assets identified for divestment are sound businesses that are well-managed with productive workforces. But they are no longer aligned with our strategy and we believe they have a bright future under new ownership.

“The strength of our balance sheet means that we can choose the most opportune method and timing to divest these assets, which may not occur until the economic climate improves.

“In the meantime, we will continue to run these operations safely and efficiently.”

The GMB union has called on Rio Tinto to re-think the plans and for the Government to take a hand in Alcan’s future.

Meanwhile, Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith described the news as “a very bad day indeed for Northumberland”.

He will be pressing Energy Secretary Chris Huhne and Business Secretary Vince Cable to help find a buyer for the plant, but if the smelter does close he said Enterprise Zone status should be given to the area, as well as other business incentives.

• See the Morpeth Herald on Thursday for the latest news.