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Rio Tinto begins reducing aluminum production at Kitimat amid strike


Production to be reduced to 35% of annual output

900 employees went on strike July 25

  • Author
  • Justine Coyne
  • Editor
  • Pritish Raj
  • Commodity
  • Metals

Rio Tinto has begun reducing production at its aluminum smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia, a day after workers at the facility began a strike, the company said in a statement July 26.

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Production at the BC Works smelter will be reduced to around 35% of its annual 432,000 mt capacity so that "it can be safely operated by staff and employees required under an essential services order granted by the BC Labour Relations Board," Rio Tinto said.

"Reducing production will have a significant impact on the business and community, but we are committed to taking the necessary steps to operate safely with a reduced workforce," Samir Cairae, managing director of Rio Tinto's Atlantic operations, said in the statement.

A reduced workforce is also in place to ensure the 1,000 MW capacity Kemano hydro-power facility continues to run safely, Rio Tinto said.

"We will continue to look for longer term solutions with the union and work closely with customers and suppliers to minimize disruptions," Cairae said.

Rio Tinto employs roughly 1,050 people at the BC Works smelter and Kemano powerhouse, including around 900 employees represented by Unifor Local 2301. Unifor-represented employees at the BC Works smelter went on strike at midnight July 25 after failing to reach a new labor agreement following seven weeks of negotiating.

"Unifor Local 2301 remains committed to resolving the labor dispute amicably and urges Rio Tinto management to reach a fair settlement," the union said in a statement July 25.

A request for comment to Unifor was not immediately returned July 26.

Rio Tinto's BC Works aluminum smelter produced 329,000 mt in 2020, according to the company's website.