July 31, 2014

End of production at Point Henry Smelter


Production at Alcoa’s Point Henry smelter ended this morning, when a large group of employees gathered to watch the last potline being switched off. Molten aluminium was then syphoned from the pots for the last time.
 
The smelter will permanently close tomorrow, after 51 years of operation, and the rolling mill by the end of the year.
 
“This is the end of an era and a very sad day for our 500 employees, their families and the Geelong community,” said Smelter Manager Warren Sharp.
 
“Yet at the same time I couldn’t be more proud – proud of the contribution that our employees have made to our company and to this community. I’m especially proud of the way everyone responded to the announcement to close, and have gone about safely shutting down smelting operations over the last five months.
 
Two potlines at the smelter have been progressively shut down during the month and today Chairman and Managing Director, Alcoa of Australia, Alan Cransberg joined employees in a countdown before long term employees Peter Guthridge, Eugene Westaway and Charlie Adornetto cut power to potline three.
 
“It is hard to find the words to express what closing the smelter means to our people, our business, the local community, and me personally,” said Alan Cransberg.
 
“This was more than a workplace. It was a place where people forged lifelong friendships, shared memorable moments and experiences, and learned life-long skills. It was a place thousands of families built their lives around.”
 
During its 51 years of operation, the Point Henry Smelter has produced more than 7.3 million tonnes of aluminium – enough to make more than 490 billion cans or 93,000 jumbo jets.
 
Economically, Alcoa’s Point Henry operations have contributed more than $10 billion to the Australian economy through royalties, taxes, wages, purchasing and investment including more than $100 million a year into Geelong and the surrounding areas. In 2013, the smelter and rolling mill contributed more than $360 million to Australia’s export income, and spent more than A$150 million with more than 2,000 suppliers in Victoria.
 
Alcoa employees also fundraised and invested thousands of volunteer hours and in-kind support into the broader Geelong community for a variety of programs in the arts, education, environment, health and disability support.
 
“We are very proud of the contribution that our employees and the company has made to this community, proud of all the great community initiatives that have come about through collaboration and partnership, and grateful for all the support we have received in return,” Mr Cransberg said on Thursday 24 July, when he announced that the US based Alcoa Foundation will grant a total of US$559,000 to six Geelong organisations.
 
“We hope that for some this will help make the transition to a future without Alcoa that little bit easier,” he said.
 
The Point Henry smelter was placed under strategic review in February 2012 due to challenging market conditions. A comprehensive review found that the 50-year-old smelter has no prospect of becoming financially viable and in February 2014 Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Point Henry smelter and rolling mill and a rolling mill in Yennora (NSW).
 
After the announcement the company implemented a multi-million dollar program to equip its employees with the skills and support they need to secure sustainable alternative employment in the region. This included career transition assistance, one-on-one career counselling, directly sponsored short-term courses and financial support for employees to undertake their own accredited training.
 
Alcoa also made a $5million contribution to the Geelong Regional Innovation Investment Fund (GRIIF).
 
An Alcoa team will now commence decommissioning the smelter and, once the rolling mill closes, determine how best to return the site to productive use.
 
Ends
 
About Alcoa Foundation
Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the US, with assets of approximately $470million. Founded 62 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than $590 million. In 2013, Alcoa Foundation contributed more than $22 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the world, building innovative partnerships to improve the environment and educate tomorrow's leaders for careers in manufacturing and engineering. For more information, visit www.alcoafoundation.com.
 
Media contact

Brian Doy, General Manager Corporate Affairs: 0404 800 690, brian.doy@alcoa.com.au