Alcan confirms closure

RIO Tinto Alcan has confirmed that it will close its Lynemouth smelter, with the loss of 515 jobs.

The plant will close at the end of the month and 323 staff will be made redundant in May.

A core team of about 60 workers will remain on site to work on decommissioning.

Some operational activity in the carbon and casting plants will continue for a time and the company’s ship unloading facility at the Port of Blyth will operate for about 18 months to store and transport materials for the Lochaber Smelter in the Scottish Highlands.

The axe has been hanging over the smelter since October when Rio Tinto announced a strategic review of its global operations and plans to off-load 13 of its assets, including the Lynemouth plant.

Consultation has been taken place with unions since, but no buyer has been found for the smelter and no deal has been struck to keep it open.

Rio Tinto Alcan Chief Executive Jacynthe Cote said: “I am saddened by the closure of the Lynemouth smelter, but we have reached this decision only after a thorough strategic review of the plant and a fair and transparent consultation process.

“I have met with Lynemouth unions and staff members and I have great respect for the manner in which they have represented their colleagues during consultation.

“We will now focus on safely decommissioning the plant, working with our employees to mitigate the impact of redundancy on them and their families and partnering with all interested stakeholders on the future regional economic development of the Lynemouth site.”

The company will deploy its Regional Economic Development programme to work alongside other agencies on regeneration and job creation in the area.

It will also consider offers for the carbon and casting plants, while talks on the sale of the power station are ongoing.

Northumberland County Council has set up a Rio Tinto Alcan Response Group to offer support to workers.

Council Leader Jeff Reid said: “The decision to close the smelter is devastating for the workforce and their families.

“RTA has been one of Northumberland’s major employers for the last 40 years and the loss of the smelter will have a major impact on the people and communities of south east Northumberland, as well as the wider economy.

“We will be working closely with RTA on longer term plans for site remediation and economic development.”

Help sessions for staff will be held at Lynemouth Resource Centre.

For more information and reaction to the closure announcement see the Northumberland Gazette on Thursday.