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Aluminum Co. Eyes B.C. for Smelter

February 26, 1998

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ The world’s largest aluminum producer is studying the idea of building a $1.2 billion aluminum smelter in British Columbia.

The announcement Wednesday makes Alcoa the third metals giant to size up British Columbia for a new or expanded smelter.

Alcoa executive Alan Renken signed an agreement with British Columbia’s premier, Glen Clark, to proceed with the study for a project that, if built, would create 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in the province. Alcoa, the Aluminum Company of America, is based in Pittsburgh.

Alumax Inc. of Norcross, Ga., has already announced a review. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., based in Montreal, is considering an expansion of its smelter in Kitimat.

``If we were successful in having three new aluminum smelters in British Columbia, it would be the largest single private-sector investment in industry in British Columbia,″ Clark told a news conference.

Clark’s announcement comes against the backdrop of rising criticism of his New Democratic Party government for its management of the province’s slumping economy.

One of Clark’s longterm economic gambits has been to offer cut-rate power to mining, forestry and smelting companies.

By Dec. 31, 1998, Alcoa will complete a review that will help it decide whether to go ahead with the smelter, which would turn out 250,000 tons of processed aluminum per year.

For its part, the British Columbia government will provide Alcoa with technical background it might require, and negotiate a power contract to meet the company’s needs.

Energy at stake in the province’s jobs initiative consists of 1,400 megawatts of power _ enough to supply 500,000 homes a year _ available until 2024 under the Columbia River Treaty. The province says the power is worth $5 billion.

Under the deal, new investors would be eligible for the power if they show they will create new jobs.

Critics have accused the NDP of overstating the surplus, but the government insists it has sufficient energy for its hustling _ a stand Clark repeated Wednesday.

Renken said Alcoa is following up on a pitch made last December by Clark, who visited several U.S. aluminum firms, selling British Columbia as a location for smelters because of its abundant hydro power and deep water ports.

Alcoa has stakes in all aspects of aluminum production, mining, refining, smelting, fabricating and recycling the product for customers in fields ranging from aerospace, cars, construction and other sectors.

More than half the company’s $13.3 billion revenues came from the United States. Alcoa employs 81,600 people at 187 operating locations worldwide.

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