It was once an industrial giant. But now, the power has been turned off. Our correspondent looks back on Alcan's undoing.Read the full story ›
Northumberland's long history of aluminium smelting has come to an end with the closure of the Alcan smelter at Lynemouth.
More than 500 people will lose their jobs by the end of the year, in what the GMB Union described as a "catastrophic" day for the region.
The smelter at Rio Tinto Alcan in Northumberland will be closed within the next hour.
Alcan worker, Paul Scott, says "it's the end of hot aluminium smelting in England".
The Alcan smelter near Ashington already has marginal profits, but a carbon tax due in 2013 would make it lose money. Rio Tinto estimates the tax would cost tens of millions of pounds by 2016, and with only a slight profit, it no longer wants to keep the plant open.
The smelter has been shutdown and the process now begins to decommission the main site. The company also has contracts it has to honour with customers, so it will continue to cast aluminium from used metal in the short-term.
However, aluminium that has been made from scratch will end not only inNorthumberland, but in England too. By the end of May, 323 of the workers will be out of work. Another 60 will continue casting, but that ends by 2013.
From newsagents to distribution, the knock-on effect in the supply chain could be in the thousands, with the GMB estimating that the whole operation brought £60m to the regional economy.
Aluminium like this, created from scratch, will no longer be made in England.
We asked Rio Tinto whether workers were given enough notice that the plant was under threat.John McCabe from Rio Tinto, Regional Economic Development Director, said: "We made the entire workforce aware as quickly as we could after the strategic review."
"We also extended the statutory consultation period as well.""We had to avoid the Carbon tax that comes in 2013. The plant was already marginal."
Paul Scott, a worker at Alcan, describes today as "the end of the line for aluminium smelting in England."Bill Armstrong, a casting plant operator, said: "They're switching off a life support system for 3,000 jobs."
Gary Saltmarsh, a Pot Operator at Rio Tinto Alcan, expresses his sadness at the smelter's closure after 40 years of metal production at the Lynemouth plant.
An aluminium smelter in Northumberland will close this afternoon.
The smelter, at Rio Tinto Alcan in Lynemouth, is closing at 2pm after an extensive consultation period with employee representatives.
More than 500 people are currently employed at the plant. Over 300 will be made redundant in May, and around 60 employees will remain on site beyond the closure of all operations to work on decommissioning the plant.
Workers from the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter plant in Northumberland have donated £30,000 to three North East charitiesRead the full story ›