* Aluminum plant shut since 2009
* Energy, labor agreements next steps
By Carole Vaporean
NEW YORK, March 23 Century Aluminum Co
said on Friday it has resumed talks for a power deal
with Appalachian Power, a unit of American Electric Power Co.
Inc., to supply its Ravenswood, West Virginia aluminum
smelter as it moves closer to restarting the idled plant.
The 170,000-tonne-a-year aluminum plant was shut in 2009 due
to low demand for the metal and falling aluminum prices.
AS the company moves forward with its plans to resume
operations, its next steps are to negotiate an energy agreement
and a labor contract with the local steelworkers union.
"So, those are the next two things that we're working toward
in order to restart," Century's spokeswoman said on Friday.
On February 29, Monterey, California-based Century announced
that it struck a deal with the United Steelworkers union to
restore healthcare benefits for retirees of the Ravenswood
aluminum smelter as part of its move to restart operations.
The company spokeswoman said striking the deal on retiree
healthcare was the first step in the process to restart.
She added that the plant will likely start up at less than
full capacity, but the operating rate will depend on terms of
the power and labor agreements, as well as the aluminum price.
"It's really those three things. So, we're working towards
the two that we can have more impact on," the spokeswoman said.
Restarting Ravenswood would also depend on the aluminum
price, "because that's necessary to have a profitably running
facility," she added.
Though she declined to put a level on it, she said Century,
"Needs a reasonable expectation that aluminum prices will be
sufficient to cover costs and be profitable. That will be
determined by the energy agreement and the labor contract."
The London Metal Exchange benchmark aluminum price
closed Friday around $2,175 per tonne, well up from the near
$1,300 a tonne level when the plant was idled.
West Virginia offered Century an inducement to restart the
Ravenswood plant by passing a bill to give the company a $20
million annual tax break. The aluminum producer plans to hire
about 400 people to run the smelter.
Once progress has been made on the power and labor deals the
company will determine a timeline to restart operations.
"We'd love to do it as soon as possible, but this all takes
a long time," the spokeswoman said.