History of Point Henry
Point Henry was home to two Alcoa operations – the Point Henry Smelter (1963 to 2014) and the Alcoa Australia Rolled Products rolling mill (1965 to 2014).
The smelter was placed under strategic review in February 2012 due to challenging market conditions. A comprehensive review found the 51-year-old smelter had no prospect of becoming financially viable. The rolling mills served the domestic and Asian can sheet markets which were impacted by excess capacity.
After five decades of operation, in February 2014 Alcoa announced the closure of its Point Henry operations.
In 1961 Alcoa of Australia was formed. Its first project was the construction and commissioning of the Point Henry smelter in Geelong. The first molten metal was poured on April 17 1963.
The smelter was one of the first plants in Australia to produce primary aluminium for domestic and international markets. In its final years the plant produced more than 192,000 tonnes of aluminium per year.
Approximately 45 per cent of the aluminium produced at the Point Henry smelter was sold to the neighbouring Alcoa Australia Rolled Products, where aluminium was rolled into sheet. The remainder of Point Henry’s aluminium was sold into Asia (Japan, Korea and Taiwan).
Since 1965 Alcoa produced aluminium sheet at Point Henry, the majority being domestic beverage can end-sheet. Eighty per cent of its rolling capacity was dedicated to supplying the Asian market.
The Alcoa Point Henry industrial operations was separated into three production areas -
- the ‘electrode’ area where carbon blocks were formed for use as an anode in the smelting process,
- the ‘potrooms’ where carbon cathodes were used to line the pots where the smelting process was undertaken; and
- the casthouse and rolling area where molten metal was cast into ingots and rolled into sheet.
During its 51 years of operation, the Point Henry smelter produced more than 7.3 million tonnes of aluminium – enough to make more than 490 billion cans or 93,000 jumbo jets.
Across five decades, Alcoa employed thousands of people at its Point Henry operations. Generations of families worked in the smelter and rolling mills. The employee turnover at Alcoa was always very low with the average length of service being more than 20 years. The history of Point Henry is shaped by the commitment, talent and focus of the thousands of individuals who should always be proud to be known as an 'Alcoan'.
After the closure announcement the company implemented a multi-million dollar program to equip employees with the skills and support needed 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.
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 surrounding areas. In 2013, the smelter and rolling mill contributed more than $360 million to Australia’s export income and spent more than $150 million with more than 2,000 Victorian suppliers.
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.