* Says working with customers, no comment on chances of
* Says prepared to operate Alma smelter at 1/3 capacity for
duration of labor lockout
* Says Alma alumina smelter in Quebec being run at 1/3
capacity by 200 managers
* Says has not hired outside workers
(Adds details from third paragraph)
By Pav Jordan
TORONTO, Jan 3 Rio Tinto Alcan is prepared
to operate its Alma aluminum smelter in eastern Canada at
one-third capacity during a union lockout that began on Jan. 1,
a spokesman said on Tuesday.
"There are 200 managers that are operating the plant right
now and are going through the process of shutting down the
second third of production," spokesman Bryan Tucker told
"We are prepared to operate at 1/3 of the capacity for the
duration of the labor disruption," he said. "I am not going to
speculate on how long that will be, but we are prepared to carry
on the operation there."
Alma, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec,
is Rio Tinto Alcan's largest wholly-owned aluminum smelter, with
output capacity of some 438,000 tonnes of aluminum.
But prices of the metal have been under pressure as the euro
zone crisis and economic problems elsewhere trigger concern
about global growth and demand for industrial metals. The London
Metal Exchange (LME) three-months aluminum price CMAL3 was
last indicated at $2,077 a tonne, down 16 percent from a year
Rio Tinto Alcan, a unit of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio
Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L), started slashing production at Alma on
Jan. 1 when it locked out 755 union workers after failing to
replace a contract signed in 2006, in happier economic times.
Tucker declined to speculate on whether or when the company
might have to declare force majeure should the lockout continue.
He said other Quebec smelters were at full capacity and unable
to pick up any of the slack caused by the lockout.
"We are working hard at limiting the impact on customers and
looking for all options available in terms of delivery to
customers," Tucker said by telephone. He gave no detail.
Alma is one of several wholly-owned Rio Tinto Alcan smelters
in the Quebec region, where it also owns a refinery.
Rio Tinto Alcan sends its aluminium to customers and to LME
warehouses, so in theory it could send more alumimum to
consumers and less to warehouses, delaying any need to break
Rio began bargaining with the union, Syndicat des
travailleurs de l'aluminium d'Alma, on Oct. 4.
(Reporting By Pav Jordan; editing by Rob Wilson)
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