By Vicki Hawthorne
A multi-million pound investment by a Co Antrim company has built what is thought to be the first metal melting works in the UK in 30 years.
McKenzies NI is now using the plant to recycle off-cuts from the aerospace industry and hopes to create more than 300 jobs in the next few years.
The plant at Larne Harbour gathers scrap aluminum including tin cans, bottle tops, window frames and off-cuts from the aerospace industry.
It then melts the aluminium in furnaces which reach 750 degrees Celsius.
The liquid metal is poured into casts and cooled to make ingots. Once finished, the ingots are ready to be used by car manufacturers.
McKenzies NI has a contract to supply ingots to Ryobi in Carricfergus. It uses the ingots to make engines for Peugot, Citroen and General Motors.
Previously, the scrap metal used in Larne was exported to other countries, before being processed and brought back to be used to make other products.
The firm behind the new plant in Larne, says its recycling process is helping other companies to save money as well as creating jobs here.
McKenzie's NI Director of Strategy and Development Stephen Russell said: "This is the start of a multi-million pound investment.
"It's at stage one, there's two more stages and we are hoping to actually create a very similar manufacturing process again in the additional ground we have at the back of the site here.
"We are currently employing 50 people and that should rise to 130 over the next 12 months and then it's going to be significantly higher after that. It should reach several hundred."
McKenzie's also makes other metal products to export.
The firm's Executive Director Sergio McKenzie Jnr said: "In our Belfast facility we're the only metal exporter in Northern Ireland that uses deep sea facilities. Through this we can export cargoes up to 24,000 tonnes. Most of our material would go to the Turkish market."
This melting works has been two years in the planning. Now it's up and running, its owners are turning up the heat with ambitious expansion plans.
Recycling metal in Northern Ireland looks to have a bright future.