(Corrects to show a shutdown of the smelter would not affect
Alcoa's Australian alumina refineries, in final paragraph.)
SYDNEY Dec 21 Australia's
300,000-tonnes-per-year Portland aluminium smelter is operating
at below a third of its capacity after power to the plant was
temporarily knocked out three weeks ago, operator Alcoa Corp
said on Wednesday.
The smelter was hit when a power interconnector between the
states of Victoria and South Australia went down, cutting power
to both of the plant's potlines, and raising questions about its
"The smelter has been operating at less than 30 percent
capacity since a fault on the Victorian transmission network on
Dec. 1 caused a more than five-hour power outage at the plant,"
Alcoa said in a statement.
It said Alcoa Chief Executive Roy Harvey met with
Australia's industry minister Greg Hunt in New York this week,
and expressed appreciation for the extensive assistance offered
to restart the smelter's lost production.
Alcoa said in May it would continue to implement cost saving
measures at the Portland smelter, but its future would be
decided by an ability to remain internationally competitive.
A recent rise in electricity prices had added to pressure on
the smelter, which has also been battling a years-long glut in
the global aluminium market.
Australia has been looking at the possibility of deploying
funds from its Clean Energy Finance Corp to help build a new
gas-fired power station to supply the smelter, or using wind
turbines to supply the works.
Harvey said Alcoa was "committed to continue working" with
Australia's federal and state governments.
A shutdown of the smelter would not affect Alcoa's
Australian refineries that supply the alumina that is processed
at the smelter, according to the company.
(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin)