April 16, 2013 / 9:46 PM / 5 years ago

Century Aluminum warns workers it will shut Hawesville in August

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - Century Aluminum of Kentucky, a Century Aluminum Co subsidiary, took another step towards closing its Hawesville, Kentucky, aluminum smelter on Tuesday when it gave notice to its employees of its plans to shut the plant in August.

Century issued the announcement to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) regarding workers covered by the United Steelworkers of America union.

The WARN notice specified that the plant will be shut unless the company can procure more cheaply priced electric power, according to a Century press release.

The Hawesville smelter produces 244,000 tonnes of primary aluminum per year and employs about 750 workers at the plant.

Century also said it gave conditional notice to its largest customer, the Southwire Company, that it would terminate its supply contract, if the Hawesville plant closes on August 20.

Last August, the U.S. aluminum producer gave notice to its electric supplier, member-owned energy co-operative Big Rivers Electric Corp, of its plans to stop production at Hawesville.

Under terms of their agreement, which is due to expire in 2015, the only way Century can terminate the power contract early is if it shuts the Hawesville plant.

In the meantime, the aluminum producer has been negotiating with Big Rivers for cheaper energy prices.

“We remain resolved to finding a solution that will support the plant’s continuing operations, and are discussing with the power provider an arrangement that we firmly believe will have no impact on any other ratepayer in the state,” said Michael Bless, Century chief executive officer in the press release.

Earlier this year, Century attempted to get a bill pushed through the Kentucky state legislature that would allow it to tap the wholesale market for its power needs. The bill died on the floor and the legislature will not meet again until next January.

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