RPT-UPDATE 1-Alcan suspends anode output at Alma aluminum smelter after death

Tue Apr 30, 2013 5:22pm EDT

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto Alcan said it has suspended anode production at its 424,000-tonne-per-year Alma aluminum smelter in northern Quebec while it investigates the cause of a accident overnight that killed a worker at the facility.

The accident occurred early Tuesday morning, a company spokeswoman said. Rio Tinto will make no other details available while it investigates the cause, she said.

The Syndicat des M├ętallos, the United Steelworkers (USW) branch in Quebec, said the accident victim was a woman.

"People in Alma are quite shaken. They've been through a lockout, so it's a big family. They're very close to one another," said a union spokeswoman.

The anode operations will remain shut until further notice. Aluminum production is not affected, the company spokeswoman said.

The plant, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, about 310 miles (500 km) northeast of Montreal, produces 250,000 anodes per year.

Carbon anodes, which are made from petroleum coke, liquid pitch and recycled carbon material, are used to pass an electrical current through alumina to convert it into aluminum.

The accident comes a year after a prolonged contract dispute between the company and the union that led to the company locking out unionized workers.

For just over six months last year, Rio Tinto operated the plant with non-union workers at about one-third of capacity. The output cuts caused a shortage of high-quality rod used by North American cable and wire makers.

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