Hundreds of jobs at stake as Alcan holds sell-off talks

TALKS are under way in the hope of securing the future of one of the biggest employers in south east Northumberland.

Bosses at Rio Tinto Alcan in Lynemouth are in discussions with two companies interested in buying its aluminium smelter and power station in separate deals.

The potential sales could safeguard the jobs of the 650 staff employed at the coastal complex.

Rio Tinto Alcan is currently undertaking a strategic review triggered by potential new European Union rules on emissions and the government’s carbon floor price.

The options on the table are keeping the current plant going, selling it off or shutting it down.

Plans to convert the coal-fired power station to use biomass fuel are continuing, but proposals to reduce emissions could cost the company an extra £40m a year by 2013, all but wiping out its annual profits.

Talks are continuing with one company interested in the Lynemouth site’s smelter and another firm considering making an offer to take over the power station.

John McCabe, Rio Tinto Alcan’s corporate affairs director, said: “The business is undergoing a strategic review by our parent company, Rio Tinto.

“They are looking at all the long-term options for the power station and smelter, including either keeping the assets, selling them or closing them.

“We have entered separate discussions with one interested party in the power station and one for the smelter about potential purchases.

“Those discussions are ongoing, and nothing has been concluded. The talks will take as long as needed.

“No decision will be taken by Rio Tinto until all of the options have been considered.

“Rio Tinto needs to determine whether it intends to sell the plant or whether it intends to keep or close it.

“Closure is something all parties want to avoid.

“If it’s felt the future of the plant is best in the hands of a third party, then it’s appropriate to look at those options.”

Mr McCabe added that staff were being kept informed of the review and discussions about possible sales.