Alcoa Portland will need assistance to stay open, says AWU

Image: ABC

The Alcoa aluminium smelter at Portland will need government assistance to keep operating, the Australian Workers Union has said.

Power to the smelter was lost in the early hours of Thursday morning last week and its number one pot line – responsible for about 60 per cent of capacity – has been closed since. It is currently running at less than a third of capacity and losing an estimated $1 million a day.

Ben Davis from the AWU told The Australian that there would certainly have to be monetary assistance from government to keep the plant operating.

“No decisions have been made about the future of the place. The power outage is a grave event but with the good will of everyone working together, there is no reason it needs to close,” he said.

Alcoa would not speculate on the cost of the outage and wouldn’t know until later in the week.

Manager of the smelter Peter Chellis told the ABC on Monday that it could take “three to six months” to fully restore the two lines.

Line one was closed for safety reasons during the power failure, which cut power to the facility for five hours. It also caused a brownout for about 200,000 homes in South Australia.

 

The Portland factory’s future has been the subject of speculation. Analysts have estimated that it is only barely profitable, and a 20-year power subsidy from the Victorian government – worth $130 million annually – ended last month.