Alcoa Will Permanently Close Potlines At Massena East Plant

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Alcoa announced Wednesday it will permanently close the remaining two potlines at its Massena East smelter.

The company doesn't give a specific date, but said it will close in the first quarter of this year.

It's unclear at this point what this means in terms of layoffs as well as Alcoa's plans to modernize its plant.

An Alcoa spokesperson said the East plant currently employs 332 people; another 669 work at the West plant.

Meanwhile, Massena Town Supervisor Joseph Gray said he spoke with the East plant manager.

According to Gray, the plant manager said the modernization schedule is not changing with this announcement.

Gray said he was assured that Alcoa will minimize job loss.

"The company will do its part to either reassign those people to the other Alcoa facility in Massena or other Alcoa facilities in other areas," Gray said he was told.

Alcoa said the decision to close the remaining potlines was made because they're no longer competitive.

One of three potlines at the facility was permanently closed in August 2013.

The closure will reduce Alcoa's smelting capacity by 84,000 metric tons.

The Massena West facility will continue to operate.

"We will be working with our unions, state, local and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of these changes," said Bob Wilt, president of Alcoa Global Primary Products, in a news release. "We appreciate the support of the New York Power Authority and will work with them and others to ensure our continuing success at Massena West."

According to a news release, Alcoa's review of its primary metals operations is consistent with the Company's 2016 goal of lowering its position on the world aluminum production cost curve to the 38th percentile, and the alumina cost curve to the 21st percentile.

In 2013, the company met its goal of lowering its cost position in both aluminum smelting and alumina refining, having reached the 43rd percentile on the global aluminum cost curve, and 27th percentile on the global alumina cost curve. These shifts represent an 8 point movement and 3 point movement, respectively, since 2010.

Including the closure of the remaining two potlines at Massena East, Alcoa has announced closures or curtailments representing 361,000 metric tons of the 460,000 metric tons placed under review in May of 2013.

Once the Massena East potline closure is complete, Alcoa will have total smelting operating capacity of 3,950,000 metric tons, with approximately 655,000 metric tons of capacity idle.

"We are taking decisive action to close the remaining potlines, given they are no longer competitive," Wilt said. "We continue to reshape our commodity business to ensure it is positioned for long-term success."

In August 2013, Alcoa announced it would close one of the potlines at its Massena East plant.

That announcement came about a month after Alcoa officials broke ground phase one of the plan to modernize the plant. That plan was expected to cost $600 million and save about 1,000 jobs.
 
At the time, the ground breaking was widely portrayed as ensuring Alcoa's future in Massena.
 
Less widely noted, however, was the fact that the company only committed to the first part of the modernization project.
 
7 News reporter John Friot reported the company will make a "final" decision on the full $600 million project in 2015.

According to our archives from August 2013, Alcoa employs at total of 1,200 workers.

The East plant employs 360 people; 260 are hourly workers.

Senator Joe Griffo (R. - 47th District) said he was disappointed to hear of Wednesday's decision.

"My hope is that the company takes advantage of state and federal programs to help its affected workers transition to new jobs within or outside the organization. My office stands ready to assist anyone who is left without adequate employment as a result of this decision," he said in a news release.

Griffo said Alcoa leaders have assured him that this decision will not affect the company's modernization plans or its Grasse River remediation project.

"I will make sure the company fulfill its obligations to the New York Power Authority and the state. It is my hope that the company will consider its displaced workers first when the economy rebounds and the financial picture improves," said Griffo.

Last week, Alcoa announced it lost $2.34 billion in the fourth quarter, mostly because it wrote down the value of aluminum-smelting operations.

Sunday, November 23, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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