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DUBAI, May 12 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabian Mining Co (Ma’aden) said a massive smelter run jointly with U.S. group Alcoa, which had experienced few technical glitches on start-up, will produce above its initial capacity target this year.
The smelter started commercial operations last year after facing problems during the start-up phase.
Ma’aden, the Gulf’s largest miner, is currently exporting around 70 to 80 percent of the smelter’s production, Thomas Walpole, senior vice president, Aluminium, Ma’aden said at a conference in Dubai.
The smelter had an initial annual capacity of 740,000 tonnes per year, but this year it is expected to achieve a slightly higher production of 760,000 tonnes, Walpole said.
“Yes it is slightly above target. Our smelter this year will roughly do 760,000 tonnes,” he said.
“We have seen consistent performance in the last six months.”
The $10.8 billion aluminium project is split into different parts, which include a bauxite mine, a refinery, a smelter and a rolling mill.
Walpole said the aluminium refinery was operating at 60 percent of its capacity and was expected to reach full output of 1.8 million tonnes by the end of 2015.
“We are in the commissioning phase now of the refinery so it’s operating at around 60 percent. It should reach full capacity by year-end.”
The bauxite mine is also operational, he added.
The project, in Ras Al Khair on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, is important to Alcoa, both because of its size and the fact it should be the facility with the lowest production costs in the world — important at a time of price volatility.
Alcoa owns 25 percent of the venture, with Ma’aden holding the balance. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Writing by Rania El Gamal and Reem Shamseddine; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)