Smelter project moving right along
WHILE THE Kitimat smelter modernization project may still be waiting for full Rio Tinto Alcan board approval, Jacynthe Cote, president and CEO of the company’s primary metal division, said May 13 that total expenditures by year’s end will have reached $700 million.
Cote was speaking at a company-hosted luncheon to approximately three dozen members of the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce and guests from Terrace.
She pointed out that translated to expenditures of about $1 million a day on a project that hadn’t even been green-lighted.
Recalling the economic crash of 2009, Cote said the decision had been made then to keep going, albeit at a slow pace, because in the long run it was actually cheaper to do that than halt it completely.
But once the go-ahead is given, she said the goal will then be to complete the project quickly because the longer it took to do, the more it would cost.
Therefore, “We all have the same objective,” she said, that being to have everything in place for when the approval came down.
Recalling the old smelter was built more than 50 years ago, Cote said the company was building for the next 75 years.
She also drew a contrast between the original project and this new one. When the original smelter was built, the technology used was “old” even then. The modernization however would use the very latest in aluminum production technology and therefore would be well-positioned on a global scale.
And she would be “challenging” the local project team to bring the modernized Kitimat smelter into the lowest cost percentile.
Turning to the question of board approval, Cote noted that aluminum prices had come back from their post-crash low ebb and the financial position of Rio Tinto as a whole was stronger today.
However, she was taking nothing for granted and cost control would have to remain the watchword of the project.
Turning to safety, Cote admitted, “Some people think we are crazy about safety.” She preferred to say the company was obsessed - and she was proud of that obsession. The Kitimat smelter has just been awarded a company gold medal for safety.