BEIJING, May 18 (Reuters) -
* A 500,000 tonnes per year aluminium project belonging to Yunnan Aluminium in China’s new smelting hub of Wenshan has been officially put into operation, the local government said on Monday.
* A launch ceremony for the project, which uses hydropower for the energy-intensive smelting process, was held on Friday and attended by Yunnan province vice governor Dong Hua, according to a statement on the Wenshan prefecture website.
* Wenshan, in southern Yunnan near the border with Vietnam, is set to become a major aluminium centre as producers including China Hongqiao Group move capacity there to take advantage of cleaner hydropower
* The launch takes the installed smelting capacity of Yunnan Aluminium, which is under state-run Chinese aluminium group Chinalco, above 2.5 million tonnes per year.
* It is unclear how quickly the project will ramp up; China’s daily aluminium output reached around 99,000 tonnes per day in April, the highest since June 2019.
* Shanghai aluminium prices hit a two month high of 12,770 yuan ($1,796.54)in Monday morning trade. ($1 = 7.1081 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Kim Coghill)