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AWU welcomes critical Portland aluminium smelter deal

March 19, 2021

The Australian Workers’ Union has welcomed the energy contract that has secured the future of Victoria’s Portland aluminium smelter.

Owner Alcoa has reached a deal that will keep the manufacturing facility running until 2026. Contracts have been finalised with existing supplier AGL Energy, Alinta and Origin Energy.

The Victorian and federal governments have also committed a further $160 million worth of financial support over four years. The package includes compensation for when the smelter is required to power down during peak electricity demand.

The smelter has operated under a heavy cloud recently, after Alcoa announced a global review into its aluminium assets, with high-cost and high-emission plants potentially on the chopping block.

Securing an agreement before the current eergy contract ran out – and a State Government subsidy expires in July, was vital to its long-term future.

As well as 500 workers on-site, the smelter supports thousands of jobs, both in the local Portland economy, and along the aluminium supply-chain process. It produces 20% of the country’s total aluminium output, with a capacity of 358,000 tonnes per year.

It also pays a vital role in stabilising the Victorian energy grid, and is able to free up to 440MW of energy in times of peak demand.

This contract will also end ongoing anxiety amongst members, who felt their long-term future at the smelter was uncertain. Victorian Branch Secretary Ben Davis said the deal was critical.

“This deal comes as great relief to our members who perform a crucial role in the nation’s sovereign capability,” Mr Davis said.

“Our capacity to produce aluminium is hugely important on a national level, but the ongoing viability of the Portland smelter is also vital to the local economy. Thousands of jobs rely on the smelter’s presence and this deal will come as a huge relief to the entire community.

“This deal shows that Australia can and should continue to engage in heavy manufacturing. If Australia is to become a clean energy manufacturing global powerhouse in the future, we need to keep operations running today.

“It’s now time for government to do more to support our local industry. Securing a power deal is one thing, but government can do much more to support heavy manufacturing jobs through stronger procurement policies.

“When aluminium is required for Australian infrastructure builds that aluminium should be coming from Australian smelters.”

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