Sunday 23 September 2018

Sanctions fears grow as 450 jobs threatened

The Aughinish plant in the Shannon Estuary
The Aughinish plant in the Shannon Estuary

Ralph Riegel and Donal O'Donovan

Fears are mounting that US sanctions against Russia could threaten the Rusal-owned Aughinish Alumina plant in Limerick and its 450 jobs.

Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys is liaising closely with management at the Aughinish Alumina plant about the growing crisis engulfing their Russian parent company over tough US sanctions.

IDA officials are carefully monitoring the situation amid concern the global problems which have hit Rusal could have serious implications for the Shannon Estuary plant.

Aughinish Alumina is the largest single employer in the area and local business officials said the firm was "hugely important" in terms of employment, exports and the traffic it generates annually for Limerick port.

Limerick Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ring said there was great confidence in the firm's future despite the current global market issues.

"Rusal is a very significant employer, with 450 well-paid jobs, delivering an important economic injection into the Limerick and Midwest region," he said.

"It is a hugely successful business so while there may be short term speculation, we would be confident that a business as strong as this would continue to impact positively here long into the future."

Limerick TD Niall Collins toured the Aughinish Alumina plant just three weeks ago on a Brexit visit. "It is a hugely important plant for the area and region - there are 450 staff there but there are around another 200 contract workers," the Fianna Fail TD said.

Mr Collins pointed out that the plant, because of its efficiencies, avoided cutbacks in a rationalisation programme implemented by Rusal several years ago.

"This is a very successful operation with a very impressive local management team and it now needs to be properly supported by the Government and State agencies," he said.

Limerick TD Tom Neville said he had been assured that everything possible was being done by State agencies.

He said he was in contact with the Department of Enterprise and Employment and had been told the minister had spoken with plant officials.

"I was also told that the IDA is involved and is carefully monitoring developments," the Fine Gael TD said.

Rusal's bonds slumped to record lows, two major customers said they were now reviewing their contracts, and the London Metal Exchange distanced itself from the aluminium giant as the potential implications of US sanctions hit home.

The sanctions were imposed on Rusal and its main owner, metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rusal took control of Aughinish Alumina in Limerick in 2007.

The Limerick plant refines imported bauxite into alumina, a major ingredient in aluminium manufacturing.

Irish Independent

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