Frequently Asked Questions

What is an aluminium smelter?
In modern primary aluminium smelting plants, aluminium oxide—known as alumina—is dissolved in an electrolytic bath of molten sodium aluminium fluoride within a carbon- or graphite-lined steel container known as a "pot." An electric current is passed through the pot. Molten aluminium is then deposited at the bottom of the pot and is siphoned off to be cast into ingots, which in turn become feedstock for downstream manufacturing of numerous aluminium-based products.

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How many aluminium smelters does Alcoa operate?
We operate or have major interest in more than 25 smelters worldwide that are located in Australia, Canada, Norway, United States, Italy, Spain, Iceland and Brazil. These smelters are among the safest in the world and are subject to strict environmental performance requirements. Many have earned awards for their environmental, health, and safety performance. They are well-regarded in their respective communities and are an integral part of the social fabric and economies of those communities.

We understand that management of environment, health, and safety requires continuous diligence, and this is what we will bring in our approach here in Greenland—as we do everywhere.

What happens at an anode plant and a casthouse?
Anodes are carbon blocks that are consumed in the smelting process. The manufacture of anodes is considered an upstream process of smelting. In the casthouse, molten aluminium from the smelter is cast into blocks that are known as ingots.

Why does Alcoa want to build a smelter in Greenland?
We share the government's vision for the proposed establishment of a modern aluminium smelter to become the foundation for an integrated aluminium industry in Greenland. This is an industry that will bring well-paid, long-term, stable and skilled employment to the local community.

Greenland's competitive energy costs, the country's strategic positioning between major markets in Europe and North America, and the availability of hydroelectric energy as a clean source of energy all make Greenland an ideal location for the establishment of such an industry.

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What will this smelter contribute to the local community?
The proposed smelter project will provide significant employment opportunities to local residents. We will train and employ about 600 people for operation and maintenance of the facility. It is our goal to have the highest percentage of employees possible from the local region. The successful candidates will have stable, long-term, well-paying jobs.

Our modern aluminium smelter will require trained and skilled operators. We plan to support and work closely with Greenland's training institutions to ensure locals get the skills required by the facility. When we started our operations in São Luís, Brazil, about 65% of our employees were newly trained local people with no previous experience in aluminium production. Today, more than 90% of the workforce at São Luís is drawn from the local community. Achieving similar success in Greenland will be a top priority.

The proposed smelter project will bring a new level of economic activity to the selected location and surrounding communities, creating jobs, educational and training opportunities, and substantial business prospects for existing and future service industries throughout the area. The project will also contribute to the development of community facilities, such as roads, schools, hospitals, and sporting and cultural venues.

Additional reading:

Aluminum Smelting Technical Article
In-depth technical discussion of the principles of smelting, including chemical reactions and process details.

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