(Adds comments on full restart timeline in sixth paragraph.)
By Melanie Burton
MELBOURNE, June 9 Global aluminium maker Alcoa
has restarted half the capacity at its aluminium smelter
in Australia's Victoria that was crippled by a state-wide
blackout six months ago.
The Portland smelter has been running at a third of its
300,000-tonnes-per-year capacity since a freak storm prompted
the power outage in December, causing molten aluminium to
solidify in the facility's potlines and freezing production.
"Getting to the half way point in our bid to restore the
business has been a big task, but what I have seen up to now
gives me great confidence in our ability to deliver the plan,"
Plant Manager Peter Chellis said in a statement.
The plant's resumption has come in part due to a A$240
million ($182 million) government-sponsored rescue package that
has secured its future for at least four years in a state that
has suffered from a spate of job losses including the shutdown
of three major car makers and a power station.
With local power costs soaring, a cheap source of energy was
also needed. The Portland smelter lined up a four-year power
supply deal with AGL Energy for 510 megawatts, or about
10 percent of the state's electricity load, earlier this year.
"We are expecting to have production restored to pre-outage
levels by early to mid-August," Alcoa spokeswoman Jodie Read
The government's financial aid is dependent on the smelter
staying open at least until 2021 and output remaining at least
90 percent of pre-blackout levels.
The plant is co-owned by Alcoa, Australian firm Alumina Ltd
, China's CITIC Resources and an arm of
Japan's Marubeni Corp.
(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Additional reporting by Jim
Regan; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger)