AluNews - February 2005

Bankruptcy court approves Kaiser agreement

Houston Business Journal, TX 01-Feb-2005

Houston-based Kaiser Aluminum announced Tuesday that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has approved the company's bankruptcy agreement.

Kaiser filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2002.

"The ISA (Intercompany Settlement Agreement) demonstrates that the company has reached common ground with the vast majority of its significant creditors," said Jack A. Hockema, Kaiser's president and CEO "We are gratified that all of the major creditor constituencies were able to come to agreement on these complex issues in a positive and productive way. In conjunction with the commitment letter for our new financing arrangement, court approval of our settlement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and last week's term sheet addressing the mechanisms for resolving personal injury claims, we believe the company has now passed another major milestone in our path to emergence from Chapter 11."

Hockema says Kaiser (OTC BB: KLUCQ) plans to file a reorganization plan within the next few months.

Separately, the court indicated it will hold a hearing to consider approval of Kaiser's new Debtor-in-Possession and exit financing arrangement on Feb. 8.

Kaiser is a producer of fabricated aluminum products and owns interests in alumina and primary aluminum.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.

ALSCON pits Nigeria against US ...BFIG moves to reclaim bid victory

Vanguard, Nigeria - Wednesday, February 02, 2005

By Ifeanyi Ugwuadu

A subtle diplomatic pressure is being mounted by United States government to force Nigeria’s Bureau for Public Enterprises to re-engage BFIGroup Corporation in negotiating its claim on the Aluminum Smelter Company (ALSCON) bid it won last year.

The US government is said to be peeved over federal government’s interest in handing over its technology to a Russian firm, Rusal when US-based BFIG had clearly won the bid and emerged ‘Preferred Bidder’ in the exercise.

Although no official line of communication may have opened between the federal government and US government on the failed bid, there were feelers that Americans cannot let go their technology in ALCON which they fear Russians intend to review.

President of BFIG Dr Reuben Jaja who spoke to journalists weekend on why the company has stepped up pressure on BPE authorities to reverse its decision to engage Rusal disclosed that anything aside reopening negotiation with the bid winner will make it impossible for foreign investors to take Nigeria’s privatisation exercise seriously.

Dr Jaja was disturbed that a technical and financial bid that was painstakingly packaged by the American Company could be set aside on the excuse that it could not pay the stipulated 10 per cent down payment on winning the bid.

"We did not default," the Nigerian-born businessman and banker insisted. Rather he alleged that deep interest in ALSCON by ‘someone’ high up in government colluded with Rusal to put "financial pressure on his corporation to default.

According to him, all pleas by BFIG to BPE to allow it pay the money into an escrow account while the privatisation bureau prepares documents to transfer the property to it failed.

The former employee of US Treasury Department said when there was no document to show that the aluminum smelting company now belongs to it except a letter conveying to them their victory at the bids, "we became suspicious" and preferred to pay the money into an escrow account which will be transferred to BPE on completion of necessary documentation.

Jaja feels betrayed as a Nigerian who saw opportunities in the country’s privatisation programme and persuaded American partners to come and invest in a "new Nigeria" vowing that he will continue the legal, diplomatic and political battle until BPE makes a U-turn on the matter.

Responding to allegations that he was not interested in running the plant and planned to strip the company of its assets immediately it was transferred to his firm, he denied having such intentions remarking that he saw opportunity in creating new jobs for Nigerians particularly, the local people through reviving the plant. He also denied overpricing the company in their bid saying such insinuations are lame since the final bid price of $410m was ‘within range’ of their prices. Moreover, he stated that a thorough evaluation of the company by experts showed that a bid price of $500m would not be a loss to them.

Still alleging manipulation of the entire process to rig them out, the company’s top official maintained that BPE should commence negotiation with BFIG if it wants to sell ALSCON. The US-based BFIG was declared the official winner of the ALSCON bid when Russian Aluminum (Rusal) was disqualified for redrafting the bid document and submitting a "Conditional Bid" against the bidding rules.

But in a surprise move, BPE disqualified BFIG for failing to pay the mandatory initial 10percent deposit of the bid price within the stipulated time. Thereafter, the bureau invited disqualified Rusal for negotiation when it did not emerge the ‘Reserved Bidder’.

RUSSIA'S RUSAL PLANS STRONG INVESTMENT IN TAJIKISTAN

RIA Novosti, Russia - 01-Jan-2005

DUSHANBE, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - Oleg Deripaska, board chairman of Rusal, one of Russia's most powerful corporations, told a news conference in Dushanbe on Tuesday that the corporation was planning to create a major power and metallurgy holding company in Tajikistan.

"Tajikistan is the country Rusal will concentrate its activities in for 15 years to come," he said.

He said Rusal was going to invest $1.5 billion in Tajik-based projects in the coming decade.

According to Deripaska, Rusal is preparing long-term contracts for supplies of alumina to the country.

When asked about investment risks in Tajikistan, he described alleged risks as "contrived."

The Rusal board chairman said the company had opened a representative office in Tajikistan, and told reporters about his meeting with President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov.

"The President is well aware of what projects we are going to embark upon in Tajikistan, there are no barriers between us, and he is interested in attracting international investment," Mr. Deripaska said.

On Tuesday in Dushanbe, Rusal signed a 2-million-euro agreement with Lahmeyer International of Germany, under which the German company will make a feasibility study for banks to fund the Rogun Hydraulic Power Plant in Tajikistan. The Germans are to come up with the study within six months.

Rusal Deputy CEO Sergei Annenkov told the news conference that the Russian company will concentrate investment in Tajikistan on three projects: the Rogun Power Plant, two new electrolysis workshops at the Tajik Aluminum Plant, and a local workforce training program.

"We consider the Rogun Power Plant as a source of energy for Tajikistan's aluminum industry. Our interests in the country are really huge. For instance, we are going to build a 200,000-ton aluminum plant in the Khaltun Region. The feasibility study for this project will be started later in the year," he said.

"We would like to either acquire or create energy facilities in Tajikistan," Mr. Annenkov said.

The Rogun Power Plant launched in 1976 can produce up to 3,600 megawatts of electricity. To complete the project will cost Rusal $650 million.

MAJOR RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM PRODUCER TO INCREASE OUTPUT

RIA Novosti, Russia 01-Jan-2005

ZURICH, January 31 (RIA Novosti's Yekaterina Andrianova) - Russian aluminium company, also known by its acronym, RUSAL, is planning within a decade's time to bring its aluminium production level up to 5 million tons per year and its annual output of alumina, to 8 million tons, Deputy Chief Executive of RUSAL Yuri Isayev told RIA in an interview on Monday. He is attending the Russian Economic Forum in Zurich.

In 2004, RUSAL's production units turned out some 2,670 million metric tons of aluminium and 2,982 million metric tons of alumina.

The company is going to meet the set targets both by upgrading the already existing facilities and constructing new ones, Mr Isayev said.

Addressing the Zurich gathering, the senior RUSAL official said five new plants would be built in the years ahead and four of those already in operation would be upgraded. The new facilities will include an aluminium plant in Khakassia with a projected annual output of 300,000 metric tons (2004-2007); a plant in the Irkutsk Region with a projected annual capacity of 500,000 metric tons (2006-2008); an alumina plant on the basis of the North Onega bauxite deposit with a projected per-year capacity of 100,000 metric tons (2005-2009); an aluminium plant at Bogychany with a projected capacity of 500,000 metric tons (2006-2009); and an aluminium plant in the Murmask Region with a projected capacity of 300,000 metric tons (2010-2012).

In addition, RUSAL is launching an upgrading project at the Krasnoyarsk aluminium plant. It is going to invest over 270 million dollars in this project, to be commissioned in 2006, Mr Isayev said.

And as far as the raw material base is concerned, the largest investment project will involve the upgrading and expansion of a facility in Fria, Guinea, with the maximum capacity to be increased from 700,000 to 1.4 million metric tons. According to preliminary estimates, the project will cost around 350 million dollars to implement.

Worker dies, 7 injured after blast at aluminum factory in Osaka

Japan Today, Japan Wednesday, February 2, 2005 at 13:53 JST

OSAKA — One man died and seven others were injured due to an explosion at an aluminum factory in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, Wednesday morning, city officials said.

The explosion took place at 10:50 a.m. at the factory owned by Takatsuki Diecasting, killing Chiaki Midorogi, 60, an employee of one of its subcontractors. Seven other men sustained burns and other injuries, with six of them injured seriously, they said. (Kyodo News)

Higher costs fail to dent Alumina profit

Sydney Morning Herald (subscription), Australia February 3, 2005

Alumina said strong global demand underpinned a 36 per cent profit increase last year and ensured a robust outlook for the year ahead.

The company, which holds 40 per cent of the Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals joint venture, delivered a 2004 net profit of $322.1 million. Its final dividend was 10c.

The result was boosted by increased production and higher prices which more than offset the impact of a stronger dollar and a sharp rise in energy and raw materials. But the profit was below an analysts' consensus figure of $326.7 million.

Alumina chief executive John Marlay said while production and commodity prices would stay strong, cost pressures would continue in 2005, particularly for caustic soda, which rose 80 per cent in 2004. The higher energy and raw material costs are expected to lift alumina production expenses by $15 a tonne.

Alcoa has said AWAC's alumina production would increase by about 800,000 tonnes in 2005 to 14.5 million tonnes. AWAC also operates aluminium smelters at Point Henry and Portland.

Mr Marlay said alumina markets remained in deficit, which was forecast to continue through 2005. "We see continuing very strong demand in China, also Western world growth continues."

Inventories at the London Metal Exchange had fallen by more than 50 per cent in 2004 and further in January, with LME aluminium prices remaining above $US1800 a tonne. The price of alumina is linked to the LME aluminium price.

Mr Marlay said decisions on AWAC brownfield capacity expansions in Jamaica, Brazil and Western Australia would be made this year. Alumina will maintain the dividend in this growth period.

AAP

China tweaks tariffs to quell inflation, save jobs

Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand 03 February 2005

SHANGHAI: A series of tariff changes imposed by China to quell its booming commodities trade may well be Beijing's way of controlling inflation and saving jobs on the farm without touching the exchange rate.

The changes would make domestic power and metals cheaper and support agricultural product prices, achieving an effect similar to a yuan appreciation but without the potential damage to China's trade competitiveness or fragile financial system.

From January 1, China raised the cost of exporting key metals and the cheapest clothing, lowered the cost of exporting corn, scrapped incentives for importing wheat and suspended import tariffs on copper, cotton and other goods from 25 African countries.

"The tariff changes allow them to cool specific sectors and limit specific exports. The results are the same as an appreciation but tariffs are a better tool," argued metals analyst Wang Qianming of China Southern Securities.

Western countries have protested that China's yuan - pegged near 8.28 to the dollar since the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis - is artificially undervalued, taking away millions of manufacturing jobs and swelling trade deficits.

Party officials fear a revaluation could unhinge an insular banking system burdened with $US200 billion in sour loans.

A yuan appreciation would also make it more difficult to create jobs for millions of migrant workers, deputy central bank governor Li Ruogu said during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Andy Xie, an economist with Morgan Stanley, said China had realised that instead of subsidising raw materials exports it should keep those products in China, where domestic manufacturers could use them, supporting employment.

"The Chinese government's one concern is to create jobs. Everything else is subservient."

The tariff tweaks put forward the latest example of Beijing's use of administrative steps to slow the world's seventh-largest economy before it chokes on over-capacity.

Last year, the central government ordered to banks to curb lending and restricted land use to cool red-hot growth, which nonetheless hit 9.5 per cent - the fastest since 1996.

The dollar has fallen 49 per cent against the euro since the end of 2001 - making Chinese exports cheaper but raising the price of the metals and oil that the country buys.

Now, export-tariff changes make metals cheaper and have the added benefit of curbing the electricity-intensive processing of aluminium, which caused power shortages. Those shortages lifted manufacturing costs and forced plants to scale back output in 2004.

On January 1, Beijing imposed a 5 per cent tax on aluminium exports and removed an 8 per cent tax rebate for smelters that import alumina - the raw material for aluminium - and export the metal. Small and inefficient smelters would be shut.

"The China government's message is that it cares about the quality of fixed-asset investment," metals industry consultant Michael Komesaroff said.

"For the same energy a smelter uses, you can employ 100 times the people in auto fabrication, or 80 times in a rolling mill. "

Added tariffs and lower rebates on exports of aluminium, copper, nickel and ferro-alloys, by making exports less profitable, trap metal in China and keep prices lower for domestically based manufacturers. Nickel and ferro-alloys are components of steel, a crucial industry.

"The same result could have been achieved by appreciating the currency, but an appreciation is less selective and affects all exports," said Komesaroff.

Meanwhile, incentives to hasten corn exports and lower wheat imports after a bumper harvest in China and abroad should help provide a price floor for those two crops - preserving farmers' incomes and slowing migration to the wealthier cities.

Keeping Zhou on the farm doesn't just help avoid rising urban unemployment and crime; it also helps bolster agricultural production.

Agricultural self-sufficiency was a point of pride for Mao Zedong, but in 2004 the value of China's agricultural imports exceeded the value of exports by about $US5.5 billion.

China's decision to add taxes on textile exports - just as those exports were poised to surge upon the end of a global quota system - seems counterintuitive.

But the new taxes are minimal, assessed by item rather than by value, and would impact very low-end Chinese goods, not the higher-value exports sent to the United States or Europe.

"The government is pushing the textile industry not just to go pell-mell for the cheap stuff. They want a more orderly leverage up the value chain," said Jeff Coey, regional director for Cotton Council International

SUAL negotiating credit with World Bank and EBRD

RosBusinessConsulting, Russia 03-Feb-2005

RBC, 03.02.2005, Moscow 18:29:43.SUAL is negotiating a USD600m credit for the Komi-Aluminum project with the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, chairman of the board of SUAL-Holding Viktor Vekselberg told reporters today. It is worth mentioning that the World Bank and EBRD have already alloacted a USD15m credit for the project.

In addition, Vekselberg remarked that Alcoa concern was not going to be involved in the alumina part of the Komi-Aluminum project, but might participate in the aluminum part.

The Komi-Alumina project stipulates the construction of an alumina plant (1.4m tons of alumina per annum) and an aluminum plant (up to 460,000 tons of aluminum per annum).

Nalco, Jindal keen on setting up aluminium plants in Vizag

Business Standard, India 02-Feb-2005

Companies indicate plants with capacity between one & two million tonnes

B Dasarath Reddy / Hyderabad February 04, 2005

National Aluminium Corporation (Nalco) and Jindal Iron and Steel Corporation Limited have evinced interest in setting up aluminium plants with capacities ranging between one and two million tonnes in Visakhapatnam.

Surveys done earlier had estimated the availability of bauxite ore in the Visakhapatnam agency area to be around 600 million tonnes.

Most of the bauxite ore is located in the thick forest areas, which is why the bauxite reserves in the state had remained untouched even after several national and foreign agencies had evinced interest to utilise the ore in the last three decades.

The most commercially mined aluminium ore is bauxite, as it has the highest content of the base metal. Primary aluminium production process is across three stages wherein first bauxite is mined, followed by the refining of bauxite to alumina and finally the smelting of alumina to aluminium.

India has the fifth largest bauxite reserves in the world with deposits of about 3 billion tonnes or an estimated five per cent of the world's deposits. On an average the production of a tonne of aluminium requires two tonnes of alumina while production of a tonne of alumina would requires between two and three tonnes of bauxite.

Nalco recently indicated to the state government’s mining department that it would consider setting up a plant with a capacity between one and two million tonnes. The public sector company had made a similar proposal in the past too but the plans were kept in cold storage due to various hiccups.

Apart from this, a technical team of Jindal Iron and Steel Corporation Limited, led by the company’s joint managing director and chief executive officer Raman Madhok, met B Satyanarayana, minister for major industries, with a similar proposal recently.

However, one of the major constraints here is that the quantity of bauxite ore available in the area cannot accommodate the two plants with the above capacity.

"That is why we have suggested to the Jindal team to reduce their proposed capacity. But they said that an aluminium plant below one-million tonne capacity is unviable," P Dayasankar, director of the state mining department, told Business Standard.

The last instance when the bauxite subject grabbed the headlines was when N Chandrababu Naidu was in power. With the Supreme Court ruling against the involvement of private agencies in mining in the scheduled tribal areas, Naidu’s efforts to engage a Dubai-based firm in the bauxite mining activities did not go further. The same judgement, however, allowed the entry of government agencies into tribal areas for mining.

The state government, therefore, has now decided to engage the Andhra Pradesh Mining Development Corporation (APMDC) for future bauxite mining in joint ventures with other public sector agencies like Nalco and NMDC.

"The Jerrala area, which is covered with thick forest (on the side of East Godavari district), has around 450 million tonnes of bauxite ore deposits. A tie-up for mining with Nalco is likely as it is easy for a public sector company to get all the necessary clearances for operating in this area," Dayasankar said. According to him, APMDC will bid for bauxite mining leases in this area.

The only place that falls outside the forest area is the Araku block, which has around 60 million tonnes of bauxite deposits. The government, at present, is keen to offer ore from this area to the Jindals. This though falls short of the company’s proposed requirement of 200-300 million tonnes of bauxite ore.

"We have asked the officials to study the proposals given by the Jindal team. The government as well as the company can arrive at a decision only after studying all the possibilities," the state minister for major industries told Business Standard.

According to unconfirmed reports, Nalco is mulling high investments to tap the bauxite reserves in Andhra Pradesh. Besides the aluminium plant, the JMD of Jindal has also indicated their proposal to set up a big power plant, mostly for the captive requirements, the minister said.

Aluminium, zinc set to forge ahead - analysts

Business Report, South Africa February 3, 2005

By Stephen Farr

London - Aluminium and zinc prices will probably rise more than other base metals this year as mining companies struggle to produce enough ore and as power shortages disrupt smelters in China, according to Citigroup analysts.

Citigroup also raised its price forecasts for copper, nickel, lead, iron ore and coking coal.

Demand for aluminium and zinc was exceeding output from mines and scrapyards, the analysts said in a report.

"In the aluminium market, refined production will be further restricted by alumina availability and power shortages in China," the January 31 report said. With zinc, "we expect the market to move into a deeper deficit in 2005".

Citigroup boosted its price forecast for aluminium by 3 percent to $1 938 (R11 691) a ton and zinc by 11 percent to $1 277.

Aluminium sold for an average of $1 719 a ton on the London Metal Exchange last year, while zinc averaged $1 048.

Citigroup's forecasts are near the top of the range for estimates in a Bloomberg survey taken in December and January, which forecast a median of $1 788 a ton for aluminium and $1 146 for zinc.

Since then ABN Amro and Standard Bank have also forecast that aluminium and zinc would outpace other metals.

At 11am in London yesterday, aluminium futures rose 0.3 percent to $1 848 a ton, up 16 percent from the start of 2004. It reached a 10-year high of $1 972 on December 31.

Costs of alumina are rising as mining firms fail to keep up with demand from smelters. Alcoa, the world's biggest aluminium producer, said on January 10 that its second-half alumina and chemicals profit surged 47 percent.

"In the alumina market, capacity growth will be insufficient to meet projected growth in smelter capacity, forcing closures and cancellation of projects," the Citigroup analysts said.

"Alumina prices will be strongly supported in 2005 and 2006."

Wang Feihong, an analyst at Beijing Antaike Information, said last month that China, the world's biggest producer, would make 7.2 million tons of primary aluminium this year, up 7.4 percent from 2004. Global production of 31.5 million tons would fall short of demand by about 270 000 tons, he said.

China has cut loans and raised taxes to squeeze out smaller producers after surging demand for electricity caused blackouts across the country last year.

China also produces 25 percent of the world's refined zinc, but it became a net importer of the metal last year, with steel makers accounting for 47 percent of the metal's consumption.

Zinc futures rose 0.5 percent to $1 299 a ton in London yesterday, 28 percent up on the start of 2004.

They reached a seven-year high of $1 307 a ton on January 31 after Zhuzhou Smelter, China's largest zinc producer, said it had cut output by a third because of power outages.

As with aluminium, a lack of raw materials would limit output, Citigroup said. Only 1 million tons of mine capacity was due to start up in the next two years, further depleting inventories that fell 15 percent last year.

RusAl sees higher aluminium output in 2005

Moneycontrol.com, India 04-Feb-2005

Russian Aluminum, RusAl, plans to produce 27,16,000 metric tons of primary aluminium and alloys in 2005 as against 26,71,000 tons in 2004, a spokeswoman for the company said. Alumina production is pegged at 33,65,000 tons in 2005, up from 31,40,000 tons in 2004 while bauxite ouput is expected to reach 50,83,000 tons in 2005 compared with 48,67,000 tons in 2004.

In the company's recent production report for 2004, RusAl said it is planning to invest around $1.5 billion into the business in 2005. It added it would continue to look for merger and acquisition opportunities in both the alumina and aluminium sectors.

Rio Tinto May Spend $6 Billion on Mines Expansion (Update1)

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg)

Rio Tinto Group, the world's third- largest mining company, may spend as much as $6 billion during the next two years as it expands iron ore, coal and copper mines to meet surging demand from China.

The company has approved and is studying between $6 billion and $8 billion of projects, London-based Rio said in a slide presentation. It could spend almost $3 billion annually for 2005 and 2006, compared with $2.2 billion last year, Finance Director Guy Elliott said.

China's 9.5 percent economic growth last year fueled demand for coal and iron ore and sent prices for copper to a 16-year high in December. The surge in prices will enable Rio to return as much as $1.5 billion to investors through share buybacks after fueling record profit in 2004.

``With the capital expenditure, Rio is in effect saying prices will be strong,'' said Jason Teh, who helps manage A$5 billion ($3.85 billion) at Investors Mutual Ltd. in Sydney, including Rio shares. ``The results were pretty much expected given the strong commodities cycle.''

Rio Tinto shares fell 95 cents, or 2 percent, to A$43.15. The stock gained 10.3 percent on the Australian Stock Exchange this year, compared with a 2.7 percent gain in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index during the same period.

Kennecott, Hail Creek

``The top is getting closer in our view,'' Merrill Lynch & Co. analysts Vicky Binns and Mike Harrowell said in a note dated yesterday. Merrill has a `neutral' recommendation on the stock.

Rio Tinto announced a $170 million investment in its Kennecott Utah copper mine in the U.S. to extend the life of the mine to 2017 from 2012. It's studying options to further extend the life of the mine, it said.

Rio Tinto is studying expanding iron ore mines in Australia and Brazil, its Hail Creek coal mine and an aluminum smelter at Bell Bay in Australia. Rival BHP Billiton is spending a record $4 billion on expansion in the year ending June 30.

``This will sustain our growth,'' Chief Executive Officer Leigh Clifford told analysts and investors in Australia via a videoconference from London. ``We've not seen markets like this in the last 20 years.''

Rio Tinto is already spending more than $1 billion expanding iron ore production and has signed long-term contracts with Chinese steelmakers including Shanghai Baosteel Group to sell as much as half of its capacity to China.

The planned new investments in iron ore are been considered after the company has ``spent a lot of time analyzing the steel industry, and in particular the growth in China,'' Clifford said. ``We've done it on the basis of what we think about demand and supply.''

Rising Costs

Clifford and company Chairman Paul Skinner declined to comment on commodity prices over the longer term.

``We expect earnings to continue to increase on the back of higher commodity prices being realized particularly'' for iron ore and coal, Goldman Sachs JBWere analyst Neil Goodwill said in a report dated Feb. 3. Goodwill estimates Rio Tinto earnings may increase by 41 percent to $3.95 billion in 2005.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest miner, is doubling the price of coking coal to $125 a ton for the year starting April 1, Japanese steelmakers said in December.

Brazil's Cia. Vale do Rio Doce, the world's biggest ore exporter, said the company wants steelmakers to pay as much as 90 percent more than they did last year. Rio Tinto is the second- largest iron ore exporter and BHP is the third-largest.

Costs Rise

Rio Tinto said rising costs, including raw materials and energy, help offset profit last year. Energy costs, particularly higher oil prices, rose by $81 million, and the company also paid more for labor, steel, rubber, diesel, and freight, Elliott said.

``Rio stated that supply and demand tightness also applies to its costs, and we anticipate these costs pressures will increase further in 2005,'' Merrill's Binns and Harrowell said.

Clifford also said the Dalrymple Bay port in Queensland, operated by Prime Infrastructure Group, may be considering a quota system for ships to cut congestion. The port is Australia's second-largest coal export terminal. As many as 50 ships are queuing at the port, he said.

To contact the reporter for this story:

Tan Hwee Ann in Melbourne at hatan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:

Peter Langan at plangan@bloomberg.net

Ghana posts best growth in five years - president

Reuters South Africa, South Africa Fri February 4, 2005 8:32 AM GMT+02:00

By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's economy grew by nearly 6 percent last year, the fastest pace of growth in five years and ahead of government expectations, the West African country's president said on Thursday.

John Kufuor, who won a second four-year mandate in the world's number two cocoa grower in December, said projects to expand Ghana's two ports were underway to make them more investor friendly and ease congestion during the cocoa harvest.

"The (gross domestic product) growth rate which was projected at 5.2 per cent for 2004, has exceeded all expectations and achieved a rate of 5.8 per cent," Kufuor said.

"Even though Ghana's economy is not yet in the league of the Asian Tigers, stability and growing confidence are now its hallmarks," he said in an hour-long address to parliament.

While Ghana suffered a series of bloody military coups after independence from Britain in 1957, Africa's second biggest gold producer has earned a growing reputation for stability since a return to multiparty democracy in 1992.

The world's biggest aluminium maker Alcoa said last month it planned to develop an integrated aluminium industry in Ghana while AngloGold, the world's second largest gold producer, bought Ghanaian gold miner Ashanti last year.

Kufuor said the annual inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent, while loan rates stood at 26 per cent, both the lowest in four years. However Kufuor said prices may rise in the short term as Ghana planned to stop subsidising the cost of petrol.

He said the government spent $10 million a month to keep the petrol price steady, which meant Ghana had some of the lowest fuel costs in West African and was also prone to smuggling.

"The general laws of economic reality apply to Ghana, and we cannot continue to pretend otherwise," he said. "In the short term, it's likely to result in a rise in inflation. However, with sound management the economy will be the healthier for it."

In his election campaign, Kufuor pledged to build on the economic stability of his first mandate and lay the foundation for faster growth fuelled by the private sector.

Many of Ghana's 20 million citizens remain in poverty and some are frustrated that economic stability has not prevented the cost of items such as electricity and school fees from rising.

Horace Love, managed Kaiser plants

Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH Saturday, February 05, 2005

Richard M. Peery

Avon Lake- Horace A. Love, 65, who managed plants for the Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. in various parts of the country, died Jan. 29 at Bradley Bay Health Center. He had been ill with complications from a stroke and heart trouble since 1987.

Love was born in St. Ann, Jamaica. He graduated from California Polytechnic State Univer- sity at San Luis Obispo and attended Harvard Business School. Kaiser employed him in Jamaica and transferred him to the United States in 1979. He managed a plant in California and was a manager in Ravenswood, W.Va., before he moved to Ohio 20 years ago to become manager of the Harshaw Chemical plant in Elyria.

Aluminium plant work to begin in June 2006

MENAFN, Middle East The Peninsula - 05/02/2005

OSLO: The Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Industry of the State of Qatar H E Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah met with the Norwegian Minister of Petroleum and Energy Thorild Widway yesterday.

Al Attiyah told reporters after the meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the 2005 Sanderstolen conference, that discussion has centred on bilateral relations, especially in the spheres of oil, gas and petrochemical industries, stressing the keenness of both sides to further promote and enhance mutual co-operation.

For her part, the Norwegian minister described the meeting as 'very positive,' saying that it was dominated by an atmosphere of understanding and willingness to expand mutual co-operation, especially in joint ventures between the state of Qatar and Norway.

Earlier in the day, Al Attiyah and his accompanying delegation held a meeting with top officials of the Norwegian Norsk Hydro Company, led by its chief executive officer.

They discussed a host of executive measures relating to the setting up of an aluminum plant, the final contract for which was signed last December.

Al Attiyah said the meeting was 'positive' and stress was laid on the implementation of the plant on time to make sure that it would be built and go on stream on schedule.

Work on the construction of the plant would commence in June, 2006 and the plant is expected to start production in late 2008 at a yearly production capacity of 570,000 tonnes of aluminium sheets.

The over $3bn plant is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum, which owns 51 per cent of the and Norsk Hydro, which owns 49 per cent.

Joint ventures between Qatar and Norway has grown now to some $6bn following the vast expansion in chemical fertilisers industry and the lately-agreed upon aluminium plant.

A chemical fertilisers plant at a value of no more than one hundred million dollars was the first joint investment between Qatar and Norway, but the plant has grown and expanded tremendously since then.

DUBAL to increase power generation

Strategiy, United Arab Emirates Saturday, February 5, 2005

DUBAL has accepted ownership of a new state-of-the- art 125MW Alstom steam turbine that, along with its already impressive turbine fleet, will allow the Aluminium giant to increase its generating capability to a massive 1700MWs, at a world class operating efficiency level of 45%.

"In many ways, this new acquisition is indeed a major milestone for DUBAL. The new Alstom 125MW, which was commissioned by us during the summer of 2004, comprises of two GE Frame 9 gas turbines and two CMI heat recovery steam generators. Also, in-line with DUBAL's stated commitment towards guaranteeing a cleaner and healthier environment, the gas turbines have specially built in combustion equipment which limit the production of atmospheric pollutants to well below accepted international standards," said Mr. Mossa Ismael, General Manager, Power and Desalination, DUBAL.

Chorus of rumour raises Corus

Guardian, UK Tuesday February 8, 2005

Neil Hume

The Anglo-Dutch steel company Corus continued its recent strong run yesterday with its shares closing at their highest level since August 2002 on speculation that it had found a buyer for its aluminium business.

After heavy trading - 100m shares changed hands - the stock closed 0.5p better at 58p excited by rumours that the mystery buyer is prepared to pay £650m for the division, which generates more than £1bn of sales a year.

At the time of December's trading update, Corus said discussions were continuing on the future of its aluminium business. A sale of the division for £650m would significantly strengthen Corus's balance sheet, which is burdened with more than £1bn of debt.

With steel prices remaining firm the more excitable traders believe Corus, which has risen 14% in the past month, could be free of debt by the end of the year and in a position to pay a dividend.

In the wider market, leading shares jumped to a fresh two-and-a-half-year high, inspired by the fact that Wall Street had managed to hold on to most of Friday's triple-digit gain.

A strong performance from British American Tobacco also helped. Its shares gained 30p to 972.5p as the City had the first chance to react to Friday's news that a US court had rejected a government attempt to force cigarette companies to hand back $280bn (£148bn) in past profits.

Dubal Potline 7 and Cast House 3 expansion project achieves 1.5 million manhours without work loss or injury

AME Info, United Arab Emirates 07-Feb-2005

Extraordinary safety methods and stringent implementation of these measures have enabled Dubal, one the world's leading aluminium producers, to achieve 1.5 million man hours without an employee losing even one day of work due to injury at Potline 7 and Cast House 3 expansion project.

Dubal believes 'Zero Harm' is not only the responsibility of senior management but each and everyone involved in the project. This approach and commitment has helped more than 40 contractors and the 1,500 workers involved in the expansion project achieve this important milestone.

"With safety being the foremost factor on the construction site, Dubal has always been committed to maintaining such an environment. We are working closely with SNC-Lavalin, our project consultant, to ensure continuous improvement on a regular basis to raise safety standards," said Eng. Yousuf Bastaki, Project Manager for Dubal expansion.

With its focus on Zero Harm, Dubal and SNC-Lavalin have jointly introduced Supervisory Awareness training programmes which are mandatory for all the supervisors. In addition to this, even contract employees will have to undergo safety inductions prior to mobilization. The contractors also conduct daily crew meetings and weekly toolbox talks to address any safety related issue.

Moreover, all contractors are required to comply with the Site Specific Safety Management plan for approval prior to beginning any work. The site safety officers chip in with thorough inspection of all plant and equipment prior to mobilization.

Keeping in mind the multi-discipline and multinational workforce, be it in Civil, Structural or Mechanical, Dubal has taken another step forward by appointing translators to ensure safety messages are clearly understood by all workers. Through daily coordination meetings with all contractors' managers and safety officers, Dubal has overcome the language barrier.

Daily safety walks and monthly site safety audits are carried out to identify and rectify possibility of any unsafe act or conditions. In order to encourage this focus on safety, contractors are also rewarded for working safely and achieving safety targets.

"This does not mean that we will cease to develop and refine our safety measures. On the contrary, we will strive harder to achieve world class safety standards and carry out improvements whenever necessary on all our current and future projects," said Eng. H. Philippe Preant Project Manager, SNC-Lavalin.

Guinea Challenges Alcoa, Alcan Claims To Bauxite

National Post Tuesday 08-Feb-2005

By Randolph Walerius

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

SANGAREDI, Guinea (Dow Jones)--In 2001, the government of impoverished Guinea began to get tough with the world's two biggest aluminum companies.

The message Guinean leaders sent to Alcan Inc. (AL) and Alcoa Inc. (AA) was quiet but clear. Your claims on the country's vast wealth of bauxite deposits are unjustified and are preventing other investors from building alumina refineries in the country.

Almost four years later, Guinea is still wrangling with the companies, and is increasingly making its irritation with them public. At the same time, the government is edging closer to awarding bauxite mining concessions to competitors of Alcoa and Alcan.

Bauxite is the ore that's refined into alumina, which is then smelted into the aluminum found in products ranging from cars to kitchen utensils.

If Guinea can attract new refineries - its sole refinery was built by the French colonial government in the 1950s - it could start to catch up to Australia, another big bauxite producer that has built about six refineries in the years since Guinea's one went up.

That's what Guinea's government wants.

"We were at the same starting point (as Australia), but today the gap is very big," Alpha Mady Soumah, the minister of mines and geology, said in an interview in his office in Conakry. "Our object is not to catch up to Australia. Our goal is to overtake them."

Guinea's 7.4 billion tons of bauxite reserves are about a third of the world total, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. People in Guinea say recent assessments show it has at least 25 billion tons.

But Guinea needs foreign investors to extract the bauxite and refine it. The country is in arrears on about $3.5 billion in foreign debt. Only 400,000 of its 8 million people hold what one minister described as "modern economy" jobs.

Attracting big money to Guinea isn't easy.

For years, the government in the capital of Conakry tried to convince Alcoa and Alcan to build a refinery, and even a smelter. The companies, partners in their Guinea venture, kept saying no.

The suspicion grew that the companies were more worried about the impact Guinean supply could have on the world alumina market.

"Alcan welcomes competition," said Anik Michaud, its spokeswoman, a comment echoed by Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery. Neither company was willing to address the details of the Guineans' complaints. Alcoa is based in the U.S., Alcan in Canada.

Alcoa, especially, has a lot to lose. The company, in addition to producing alumina for its own smelters, is the biggest single supplier to third-party smelters.

The alumina price was $170 a ton at the end of 2000, just before Guinea started its get-tough approach; it's now at $400 a ton.

In part because of Alcoa's heft in that alumina market, Guinean officials say it dominates the Alcoa-Alcan partnership in Guinea and is most opposed to other investors getting rights to the bauxite.

"I don't think it's going to serve us to dispute anything that other people have said," Alcoa's Lowery said. "We are in constant contact with the government. On occasion, issues come up and we discuss them."

As badly as Guinea wanted foreign investment in its bauxite reserves, it had few options besides Alcoa and Alcan in an industry that was steadily consolidating. Russia, which has huge smelters that need alumina, was going through its own turmoil in the decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Alcoa and Alcan inherited a 1963 pact with the Guinean government that gave them modest mining rights and substantial exploration rights. The government expected the exploration rights would eventually lead to the construction of a refinery. Its frustration grew as this failed to happen.

The year 2000 marked a turning point in Guinea's prospects.

A startup company called Global Alumina Products Corp. (GPC.U.V) arrived with a plan to build a $2 billion, 2.8 million ton refinery in northwestern Guinea, between Sangaredi and Boke.

"We encountered a significant amount of skepticism when we arrived," Global Alumina Chief Executive Bruce Wrobel said. "We were a new company... (The government) had been hearing from others that we were undercapitalized."

Wrobel, who previously worked on power generation projects, founded Global Alumina for the sole purpose of investing in Guinea. His company raised enough money to convince Guinea it was serious, but it will need to raise another $1.4 billion to complete the refinery.

Global Alumina, which is listed in Toronto, has its headquarters in New York.

Armed, finally, with a plan for a new refinery, Guinea felt emboldened to challenge Alcoa and Alcan.

In early 2001, the government gave Alcoa and Alcan a three-year ultimatum: identify the bauxite reserves you'll need for a 60-year period and abandon claims on the rest.

At the same time, another potential investor arrived in Guinea. Russian Aluminum (RAL.YY), which emerged at the end of 1990s as Russia's biggest aluminum company, proposed a 2.4 million ton refinery using bauxite from an area known as Dian Dian.

Alcoa and Alcan's reaction to Rusal's interest still makes Guinean government officials bristle with anger.

Through a Guinean operating company, Alcoa and Alcan "wrote Rusal that it cannot do anything in that area because it is theirs - without informing the government," Cece Noramou, a Ministry of Mines official, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Lowery, the Alcoa spokesman, said the partnership with Alcan has "rights to certain things and we think it's important that people see we have rights."

The government was even more upset when Alcoa and Alcan missed the April 2004 deadline. When they finally submitted their plan two months later, it was in English. The Guinean government took that as a snub.

"Our working language is French," said Noramou.

The document claimed the companies would need 10 billion tons of Guinean bauxite for the next 60 years. At the current mining rate, it would take 800 years to extract that amount.

The government's negotiations with Global Alumina and Rusal brought another, more favorable response from Alcoa and Alcan. In May 2004, even as they were assessing their future bauxite needs, the partners announced they might build a 1.5 million ton refinery in the country.

Guinean leaders say the pressure is paying off.

"We have had a hard and direct dialogue with partners," said Soumah, the minister of mines and geology, in reference to the companies.

Although big obstacles remain, the projects now proposed by Global Alumina, Alcoa and Alcan, and Rusal would lift Guinea to more than 10% of the global alumina supply within a decade from just over 1.0% last year. It would also create thousands of jobs.

Ormet Encourages Agreement

Wheeling Intelligencer, WV 08-Feb-2005

By ANDY STAMP

WHEELING - Officials with the Wheeling-based aluminum producer Ormet Corp. issued a statement Monday calling for the United Steelworkers of America to help reach a new labor agreement for workers at the company's two Hannibal facilities.

"Now, as before, Ormet stands ready to make every effort to resolve, in good faith, the issues that remain on the table," the company stated. "We call on the USWA, which claims to be acting in the best interests of Ormet's hourly workers, to do likewise."

Regarding future negotiations, a company spokesman said he was "quite sure that there will be further talks scheduled in due course."

Speaking on behalf of the union, Ronnie Blatt, grievance committee chairman for USWA Local 5724, replied, "We are ready and willing to go back into negotiations with Ormet as long as they are truly willing to negotiate."

Blatt claimed that Ormet is seeking to reach its goal of $23 million in cost savings by taking it "off the backs of the workers," instead of proposing an arrangement that would be "fair for both sides."

He further claimed the company has refused to acknowledge the union's own reorganization plan, which, according to Blatt, is similar to those previously enacted by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and Weirton Steel.

Ormet's reorganization plan was approved in December by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the South District of Ohio. The company said Monday that it intends to implement its plan and exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy as soon as possible.

"Ormet will do so with or without new labor agreements," added the company.

"Without such agreements, however, there can be no assurance as to the timing of the restart of the reduction plant's potlines or the reintroduction of the hourly workers to the Hannibal facilities."

Before it can emerge from bankruptcy, Ormet is required to file a 10-day notice with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

A company representative said Monday that Ormet officials are likely to address the timing of the company's emergence from bankruptcy during a hearing within the next few weeks.

Ormet's statement Monday also challenged recent remarks made by union officials over the past several weeks, including claims about pensions and medical benefits for retirees.

"We have seen a number of media reports over the last few weeks with statements by union officials that are ... incorrect in our view, and after reading a number of such statements over the last few weeks, we decided to issue a statement of our own to set the record straight," the representative said.

Today, a union official said Ormet asked the court to allow it to stop contributing to retirees' health care and pension plans. That claim has since been corrected by the official and refuted by the company.

Ormet said its plan of reorganization "does not contemplate terminating pension or retiree medical benefits. There are no changes at all to vested pension benefits. And with respect to retiree medical benefits, in order to be able to afford the continuation of these benefits, the company will be making changes in how the benefits are provided, but fully expects to remain a significant contributor to their cost."

A company representative declined to comment on the proposed changes to retirees' medical benefits. Blatt said bankruptcy court documents indicate the company is looking to cut its annual contribution by about half.

"They're taking benefits from the people that need it the most," he said.

Ormet officials also denied that it plans to permanently shut down the Hannibal reduction plant and rolling mill. They said they "would like nothing more than to see the Hannibal Reduction Plant back in operation and our hourly workers back on the job in Hannibal as soon as possible."

The union, however, noted that the company is not preparing to operate the facilities at full capacity.

"(Ormet officials) have no plans in their plan for reorganization to run a six-line operation, which would give the members of (Local Union) 5724 full employment," said Blatt. "And that, in turn, would probably reduce the capacity at the rolling mill."

Blatt said the union's plan calls for maintaining a six-line operation as well as "putting capital back in the plant and making it a long-term entity."

Last week, Blatt appeared before several local county commissions in order to generate public pressure on the company. Monroe County commissioners sent a letter to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Barbara Sellers asking her to revoke the exclusivity clause that prohibits third parties from making offers to purchase the company.

"The commissioners' interest, indeed all of Monroe County's, is not in who owns these plants, but that they are operated in a sound manner," wrote the commissioners.

"If the present management cannot or will not operate these facilities at or near full capacity, (then) we, the Monroe County Commissioners, would ask the court to remove the exclusivity clause that the present Ormet management has with the court. We believe that this removal of this exclusivity clause would allow potential buyers the opportunity to present a plan or option to the court and Ormet creditors."

A hearing on the exclusivity clause is scheduled to take place before Sellers on Feb. 23 in Columbus.

Alcan Forecast for Aluminum Demand Seen As Too Low

Reuters Canada, Canada Tue February 8, 2005 4:17 PM GMT-05:00

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Alcan Inc.'s forecast for slower growth in global demand for aluminum this year appears too conservative given global economic conditions, analysts said on Tuesday.

Alcan, the world's second-largest maker of primary aluminum, said on Tuesday it expects world demand for primary aluminum to rise 4 percent this year. In 2004, world primary aluminum consumption rose 9.6 percent, well above its historical trend, Alcan said.

Lloyd O'Carroll, analyst at BB&T Capital markets, said Alcan's forecast was well below his own 5.9 percent estimate for growth in demand for aluminum.

O'Carroll also said that Alcan's forecast for aluminum production growth in 2005, at 5.7 percent, is higher than his 3.3 percent estimate.

"There's not enough alumina to produce as much as their forecast," O'Carroll said.

Prices for alumina, which is refined from bauxite and is the key raw material for making aluminum, have been under upward pressure on tight global supply.

At BMO Nesbitt Burns, analyst Victor Lazarovici said Alcan's forecast implied aluminum demand growth of only 1.5 percent this year in the western world, which excludes China.

"Our forecast is for growth in the western world only of 3.8 percent, and that is our consistent with our view of where we see industrial production," he said.

"Like last year, I think that there's a good chance that as we get through subsequent quarters, they'll revise upwards," he said.

Alcan forecast a world deficit for aluminum of about 200,000 tonnes in 2005, down from an estimated deficit of 685,000 tonnes in 2004.

In a conference call with analysts on Tuesday, Alcan said it expects capital expenditures to amount to some $1.9 billion this year, of which $800 million is slated for the expansion of its Gove alumina refinery in Australia.

Geoffery Merszei, chief financial officer, told analysts that with the bulk of Alcan's aluminum rolled products business spun off last month into Novelis Inc. , an independent company, Alcan's profit level will adjust more quickly to changes in the London Metal Exchange prices for aluminum.

($1$1.25 Canadian)

Alcoa: No word yet on Elkem plans

MarketWatch Feb. 9, 2005

By Leslie Wines, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - Alcoa Wednesday said it registered a protest with the Oslo bourse for accepting the takeover bid of its joint venture partner Norwegian conglomerate Orkla ASA for the metals co-venture Elkem ASA.

However, the Pittsburgh aluminum giant still has not decided whether it will mount a takeover effort of its own, sell its approximately 47 percent stake in Elkem back to Orkla, or pursue another strategy with regard to Elkem, a spokesman said.

Alcoa's protest requests that the bourse review whether its approval of the Orkla bid, launched Jan. 10, was proper and whether the bid price was too low, the spokesman said.

On Jan. 10 Orkla gained a controlling interest in Elkem by buying up shares from a mix of banks and insurers.

On the same day Okla launched a takeover bid for Elkem's remaining shares.

The Oslo-based company, a major producer of consumer products and chemicals, now owns slightly more than 50 percent of Elkem. Previously, it owned 39.9 percent of Elkem

Elkem has been caught in the middle of ownership struggles between its co-founders Alcoa and Orkla since 1998.

In 2002, Alcoa made two unsuccessful takeover offers for Elkem.

In January when Orkla launched its takeover bid for Alcoa, the U.S. aluminum producer said it would take a number of weeks to mull its response.

Ormet workers want local officials' support for sale of plant

Marietta Times, OH 09 Feb 2005

By Brad Bauer, bbauer@mariettatimes.com

Striking union workers from Ormet asked Washington County commissioners to draft a resolution Tuesday in support of their fight with the company that operates two aluminum plants in nearby Hannibal.

Ormet's plants in Monroe County is southeast Ohio's largest single industrial employer, with about 1,300 workers. About 200 of those workers live in Washington County.

Ronnie Blatt, a member of the Steelworkers 5724 union, said three companies are interested in buying the bankrupt company, but a motion filed in bankruptcy court by Ormet prevents the company from being sold.

Blatt said that motion is being appealed by the union workers and a hearing on the matter is set for Feb. 23.

"If she rules against us, that basically blocks anyone from coming in and buying the plant," Blatt said. "We have three different companies wanting to come in and buy that plant and get it up and running the way it should."

Blatt and other union workers asked Washington County commissioners to write letters or contact the bankruptcy court and state officials to let them know how important the plant is to the region.

"We certainly recognize the plight they are in," Commissioner John Grimes said immediately after the 2 p.m. meeting. "It is similar to situations we've been seeing at companies all across the valley."

Grimes said the issue will be discussed and decided upon in the near future.

The Ormet strike began in late November after company officials refused to postpone a federal bankruptcy hearing. The company's reorganization plan would freeze pension benefits, raise worker health plan contributions and change work rules for union members.

Blatt said the union has offered several drafts, only to see them rejected. Their latest reorganization plan is a model taken from a Pittsburgh-based company.

"It's a proven plan," Blatt said.

Striking workers don't receive regular payments during the strike, but they can get some bills paid by funds provided by the union.

Ormet workers say they don't see an end in sight to the strike, which is affecting only workers at the Monroe County plants. Wheeling, W.Va.-based Ormet also has facilities in West Virginia, Indiana and Louisiana.

"We believe the only way we're going to win this fight is to get the community involved and to tell our story," Blatt said. "Our fight is just and we're going to continue that fight."

Capacity of Pavlodar aluminum plant increased half as much again after reconstruction

Kazinform, Kazakhstan February 11, 2005

Pavlodar. February 11. KAZINFORM. \Vera Livintsova\- In the year of 2005 Aluminum of Kazakhstan intends to produce 1.5 million tons of alum earth as half as much of the project capacity, our correspondent reports.

Complex programme of the technical development has been accomplishing here. The developers and experts of the Pavlodar aluminum plant neither suspending the production nor reducing the aluma output had fulfilled the worked out programme, upgraded the plant and successfully mastered non-conforming bauxite processing of the Krasnogor deposit.

The main efforts of the experts of the plant were aimed at expansion of the working machinery and perfection of its ecological safety.

Improvement of the produce quality and perfection of the production organization let JSC Aluminum of Kazakhstan receive a conformance certificate to international system of management quality ISO -9000 in 2003.

New SUAL Smelter

Moscow Times, Russia 10-Feb-2005

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- No. 2 aluminum producer, SUAL, may build a new smelter in the Sverdlovsk region with a capacity of 500,000 tons of the metal per year, the regional administration said late Wednesday.

It said in a statement that the administration had reached an agreement with SUAL and electricity giant Unified Energy Systems to form a working group to prepare a feasibility study for the plant in the next two months.

TEXAS, JAPAN ALLY ON ALLOYS

Small Times Feb. 10, 2005 –

Nano-Proprietary Inc. (OTC.BB: NNPP) of Austin, Texas, announced through its subsidiary Applied Nanotech Inc. that it has entered into a research and development agreement with Shimane Institute for Industrial Technology of Shimane Prefecture, Japan, to develop a new aluminum alloy using carbon nanotubes that has thermal conductivity four to five times greater than aluminum metal.

This agreement is a result of international cooperation between Shimane Prefecture and the State of Texas, according to a news release. The relationship was initiated in January 2004 by the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and the Governor of Shimane Prefecture, Nobuyoshi Sumita, with the goal of enhancing the cooperation in nanotechnology between Shimane and Texas companies for economic development and job creation in both regions.

Old lies about Bonneville

Seattle Times Thursday, February 10, 2005

Editorial

The Bush administration should keep its hands off the Bonneville Power Administration.

While the president's commitment to deficit reduction is admirable and necessary, administration officials have dredged up an old lie to raise about $3.2 billion off the backs of Northwest power users over five years. They allege falsely that federal taxpayers subsidize Northwest power. It is malarkey.

True, federal investment built the 31 dams in the Columbia-Snake federal hydropower system, which generates power at relatively low cost to Bonneville's customers. But federal taxpayers are getting a return on that investment with market-rate interest. Northwest ratepayers, whether residential or industrial, have been paying off that debt to the U.S. Treasury — about $1 billion every September.

Those facts demolish the budget crunchers' premise that Bonneville and other federal marketing agencies should begin charging market rates with the proceeds going to reduce the deficit. Bonneville, which provides about half of Northwest energy, now sells power for about $32 a megawatt-hour — about $13 under the market price of $45.

Seattle City Light customers would pay an additional $100 million a year, representing rate increases of 6 to 12 percent. Tacoma Power's residential customers might see a 35-percent increase, while industrial customers might pay as much as 75 percent more.

Substantially higher rates could convulse the Northwest economy, which is still reeling from Bonneville's 46-percent rate hike after the Western energy crisis of 2000-01. Several aluminum companies remain shuttered and other energy-dependent businesses remain cut back.

Not only businesses have been hurt. Snohomish Public Utility District, which gets about 80 percent of its power from Bonneville, reports its 2004 rate of disconnections for nonpayment was almost double that of 2000. And the 14 Snohomish County school districts paid $10 million in power costs in 2004 — about 50 percent more than in 2000. That's $3.4 million not spent in classrooms.

The good news is the Northwest congressional delegation, including Republicans and Democrats, is of one mind against the proposal.

And New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, Republican chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismisses the proposal as "politically untenable."

It is ironic the Bush administration, which has touted its tax cuts as a spur for the nation's economic recovery, would propose such an anti-business policy in a region with an economic foundation built on low-cost power.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

Price rises force Comalco cuts

Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand 11 February 2005

Comalco has cut production by 5 per cent at its Tiwai Point aluminium smelter because of rising spot power prices, and is warning that New Zealand may be heading for an electricity crisis.

Comalco managing director Tom Campbell said spot market prices had tripled since the new year, lifting the company's electricity bill by up to $40,000 a day.

The company scaled back production on Tuesday. The cut was equivalent to the power used every day by a town the size of Gore.

It would be "tightening its belt" and that would affect Southland's economy, he said. Maintenance and extra contracting work at the plant might be cut.

Comalco was not trying to alarm people or appeal for government intervention, Mr Campbell said. "We're not making any plea here but what we want is to bring to the attention of the public that 2005 is beginning to unfold very similarly to 2003 – and 2003 was a crisis."

In that year the company cut production by 10 per cent, while domestic users were also called on to save power usage during the shortage.

Like 2003, there were no apparent external factors causing a rise. "It is a normal type of year with plenty of water in the lakes.

"The events of the early part of 2005 and 2003 are very similar. I'm concerned we are heading in the same direction."

However, Electricity Commission chairman Roy Hemmingway said the price increase was because of short-term factors that would ease. These included maintenance work at a North Island power station and higher temperatures in the past two weeks.

Lake levels were high, and the Electricity Commission was confident the country was not heading toward a repeat of 2003, he said.

"It does not appear there is any shortage likely to be happening any time soon."

But prices might stay higher than 2004 levels, a year of cheaper electricity when high rainfall ensured goodsupply.

Tiwai Pt operations general manager Brian Cooper said he was disappointed to see the cut so early on after a record year for production in 2004. He said the company had avoided cutting jobs during the 2003 crisis and would strive to do the same this year.

Mr Campbell said Comalco paid an average of $40 per megawatt hour (MWh) in 2004, compared with prices between $100MWh and $120MWh in the past week. "This is not just a normal blip in the market."

Comalco buys 10 per cent of its electricity from the spot market. The rest it buys from Meridian Energy.

Vedanta plans to invest Rs 7,000 crore in Orissa

Indian Express, India Friday, February 11, 2005 at 0050 hours IST

ENS ECONOMIC BUREAU

MUMBAI, FEBRUARY 10: Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc on Thursday announced that it will be investing Rs 7,000 crore in building a 500,000-tonne aluminium smelter in Orissa. This is part of Vedanta’s Rs 15,000 crore ongoing investments in the Indian metal industry.

Speaking to newspersons here, Anil Agarwal, CEO of Vedanta Resources — the parent firm of Sterlite Industires, Balco, Hindustan Zinc, Malco and Vedanta Alumina — said: ‘‘This is a major step in our vision to create 1 million tonnes of aluminium capacity to meet the growing demand in India. We have already brought in FDI worth $1.5 billion to fund our existing projects.’’

The London Stock Exchange-listed company — owned 54 per cent by Bahamas-registered company of Agarwals — is already spending close to Rs 9,600 crore to build a new alumina unit and increase capacities of its aluminium, copper, zinc and lead plants in India. It is also conducting a feasibility study to set up a Rs 12,000 crore steel plant in Orissa.

The project in Orissa, which includes a 1,000-mega watt power unit, will be done in two phases over three to five years, he said. ‘‘Initial project development work including land acquisition, feasibility studies and the government approval process is underway,’’ Agarwal said.

Vedanta plans to source alumina, an intermediate product in aluminium production, for the smelter from its alumina refinery being set up in Orissa with a capacity of 1 million tonnes. It plans to raise the capacity to 1.4 million at a later stage.

In India, Vedanta is expanding its existing aluminium production capacity to 400,000 tonnes a year from 140,000 tonnes, copper capacity to 300,000 tonnes from 180,000 tonnes and its zinc smelter to 400,000 tonnes from 230,000 tonnes, Agarwal said.

Kaiser gets court nod on new financing deal

Houston Business Journal, TX 11-Feb-2005

Kaiser Aluminum said Friday that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has approved the company's previously announced new financing arrangement.

The new financing arrangement is an agreement with JPMorgan Chase Bank, National Association, J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., and The CIT Group/Business Credit Inc.

This deal provides Kaiser with a new $200 million debtor-in-possession credit facility intended to remain in place until the company's emergence from Chapter 11.

The new arrangement also provides a commitment to Kaiser for a multiyear exit financing in the form of a $200 million revolving credit facility and a fully drawn term loan of up to $50 million when the company exits Chapter 11.

The company closed on the new DIP credit facility today.

Houston-baser Kaiser (OTCBB: KLUCQ), which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in February 2002, produces fabricated aluminum products, alumina and primary aluminum.

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.

China, Jamaica studying: New alumina refinery

Jamaica Observer, Jamaica Monday, February 14, 2005

The Chinese are considering developing a one-million tonne alumina refinery in Jamaica, and feasibility and technical studies on whether Beijing should proceed are to begin shortly, Prime Minister P J Patterson announced last night.

Patterson, in a radio and television address, said that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Jamaica/China cooperation in the bauxite/alumina sector was among the agreements signed in Kingston last week during the official visit to the island by the Chinese vice-president Zeng Qinghong.

Zeng led a large delegation of investment and trade cooperation officials for an exhibition and Sino/Caribbean talks that focused primarily on the Chinese using Jamaica as a jump-off point for expanding its markets in the region.

While it was known that several bilateral pacts were signed between Kingston and Beijing, there was no specific or detailed announcement of the likely alumina agreement until Patterson's statement last night.

"Specifically, the relevant governmental agencies and China will conduct feasibility and other technical studies towards the development of a new alumina plant in Jamaica to supply the requirements of the China market," Patterson said. "Consultations will take place shortly to finalise the work for conducting the necessary studies."

China's booming economy is hungry for metals and Jamaica last year sent 830,000 tonnes of alumina to its aluminium smelters, a more than 1,200 per cent supply hike over four years. The value of those exports have gone from US$12 million in 2000 to US$200 million in 2004.

The proposed capacity of the plant, Patterson said, was a million tonnes a year "and this would involve significant investment for our industry and by far the largest by China in Jamaica and the Caribbean".

Patterson did not place a price tag on such an investment or say where such a plant would possibly be sited, but industry sources estimated that a greenfield facility of this type would require an investment of upwards of US$700 million.

It was not clear last night how the proposed Chinese alumina refinery would impact plans by Alcoa for a US$800-million investment to increase, from 1.25 million tonnes a year to 2.65 million tonnes, the Jamalco alumina refinery in Hayes, Clarendon that it owns with the government. That project is to start by mid-year.

Apart from the Jamalco refinery, there are the two Windalco facilities with a combined capacity of one million tonnes of alumina a year and the Norsk Hyrdo controlled Alpart plant with a capacity of 1.1 million tonnes.

Officials have said that Jamaica has about 50 years of alumina reserves remaining and there has been no revision of this estimate.

Kyoto 'counter-productive': Minister

Australian, Australia February 14, 2005

AUSTRALIA'S energy-efficient exporting industries would be penalised under the Kyoto Protocol, Environment Minister Ian Campbell said today.

He said it was counter-productive to the cause of curtailing man-made climate change to prevent Australia exporting its high-quality energy products and low-emissions technology.

Australia and the United States are the only major industrialised countries to have resisted signing the Kyoto Protocol, which comes into force on Wednesday.

The protocol aims to limit greenhouse emissions and introduce an international carbon trading scheme, but the government believes it will be ineffective.

Labor will today introduce a private member's bill requiring Australia to ratify the protocol.

The bill was launched yesterday with the claim that it would be Labor's Valentine gift to the Australian people.

Senator Campbell called it a frivolous stunt.

"Just signing a Kyoto Protocol or pulling a postcard stunt about the Kyoto Protocol is no substitute for a policy," he told reporters.

He challenged Labor to include in its private member's bill the way it would implement the Kyoto Protocol, notably through a domestic carbon trading scheme.

"We need to have a clear enunciation of just what that scheme will cost the consumers of Australia," he said.

"The Kyoto Protocol is ineffective in that during its period the scientists expect that greenhouse gases will actually increase in the world because it doesn't have a pathway for developing countries.

"It basically says `let's just ignore them for the time being'.

"Kyoto works against Australia's highly energy efficient industries, exporting to the world.

"We should have an international agreement that encourages a country like Australia to smelt aluminium here, because we can do it more efficiently than just about every country in the world.

"We shouldn't be penalised for that."

He said Australia was a large country with huge energy resources and a small population.

"So why would we criticise ourselves for that?" Senator Campbell said.

"Why not say that's a wonderful thing that Australia produces energy efficiently and exports it to the rest of the world?"

Labor's environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said the effects of climate change were being felt in Australia and it was time for the government to sign the protocol.

"It's about time Australia stopped being on the outside looking in," he told reporters.

"Climate change is the number one environmental challenge within the international community.

"We're already seeing its impacts in Australia. We've seen an increase in droughts, an increase in salinity, problems with our rivers."

Labor acknowledged the treaty's shortcomings, Mr Albanese said, but there were many good reasons to sign up.

"We simply have to join the coalition of the willing when it comes to climate change," he said.

"It's only Australia and the United States that remain outside the system.

"Labor agrees that it's an inadequate treaty. Labor agrees that we need to talk about what happens post-2012, but that's not a reason to not sign this agreement."

US and Canadian companies in race for Sohar smelter EPCM

MENAFN, Middle East - Feb 13, 2005 Times of Oman - 14/02/2005

MUSCAT — World's leading engineering, procurement and construction management firms Bechtel of the US and SNC-Lavalin of Canada are understood to be in the race for the much-publicised Sohar smelter project's engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contact.

The EPCM contract will cover the construction of a single potline with a capacity of approximately 330,000 tonnes per annum. The project is based on the most advanced and highly efficient Pechiney-AP30 technology developed by Canada's Alcan Inc.

Alcan had signed an MoU last year with Oman Oil Company and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, the largest shareholders of Sohar Aluminium Company, for a 20 per cent equity interest in the development of the proposed 330-kilotonne per annum aluminum smelter project in Sohar.

Alcan also has the option of acquiring up to 60 per cent of a planned second potline for an additional 330 kilotonnes per annum of aluminum. The agreement provides that Alcan would licence its Pechiney AP30 smelter technology and take a leading role in the construction and operation of the smelter project.

The project will have long-term access to a dedicated power supply on competitive terms and in a quantity sufficient to meet the energy requirements of the first and second phases of the smelter project.

The EPCM excludes the proposed 750MW captive power plant and the contract for the same will be awarded separately. The power plant is expected to be one of the biggest of its kind in the region. It was announced that subject to successful completion of the project agreements and financing arrangements, construction is expected to commence in 2005 and result in first metal production by the end of 2007.

Alcan is a multinational, market-driven company and a global leader in aluminum and packaging, as well as aluminum recycling. Alcan's world-class operations in primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum as well as flexible and specialty packaging, aerospace applications, bauxite mining and alumina processing positioned the company to meet and exceed its customers' needs for innovative solutions and services.

Bechtel, headquartered in San Francisco, is a global engineering, construction and project management company with more than a century of experience on complex projects in challenging locations. It had revenues of $16.3 billion in 2003 and has been raked No. 1 in the US contractor six years running. The areas of specialisation include roads and rail systems; airports and seaports; fossil and nuclear power plants; refineries and petrochemical facilities; mines and smelters; defence and aerospace facilities; environmental cleanup projects; telecommunications networks; pipelines; and oil and gas field development.

Oman Oil Company and Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority hold 40 per cent stake each in the equity of Sohar Aluminium Company and Canada's Alcan owns 20 per cent

The oligarch two-step - Russians lobby for African mine concessions, and for a bar on foreign miners

Russia Journal, Russia February 14, 2005 Posted: 19:56 Moscow time (15:56 GMT)

By John Helmer

Renova, the venture capital unit of Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg, is about to branch out in two new metal mining directions -- manganese in South Africa, and titanium in Russia.

Both moves are potentially controversial, and could cost Vekselberg $500 million apiece. But if they succeed, they will be the first signs of the difference Brian Gilbertson, Vekselberg's principal executive, has been making to the group's business strategy, since he was appointed chief executive of SUAL, Vekselberg's flagship company and in Russia a producer of bauxite, alumina, and aluminium.

Until Vekselberg hired Gilbertson last August, every attempt at floating SUAL as a diversified metal miner to international investors had failed. Roddie Fleming was the first of Vekselberg's investment advisors to propose building up SUAL's portfolio with metals apart from aluminium, and mines located outside Russia. But despite optimistic announcements of intention in January 2003, Fleming and his family fund stopped at the PR preliminaries. Fleming would not invest enough cash himself in SUAL to share the cost of the acquisitions with Vekselberg. Nor could Fleming find anyone else to fund the venture. At the time they hired SA executive Chris Norval, Vekselberg and Fleming claimed: "SUAL as a vertically integrated [aluminum] company will be transformed into a diversified company which will also have assets in the ferro-nickel, tantalum and coal sectors." Two years later, this is a dead letter, and Norval has been succeeded by Gilbertson.

With his advice, Vekselberg has increasingly focused on acquiring SA mining assets, and without Fleming in tow, Vekselberg visited SA twice last year. The most recent trip was in November. SA sources claim he asked Anglo American to sell its 40-percent stake in Samancor Manganese, the Northern Cape-based producer of the valuable metal used to ourify and harden steel for many applications. BHP Billiton holds the remaining 60-percent. Anglo American has said the manganese asset is not for sale. But it has signed an agreement in principle to sell the associated Samancor Chrome to a little-known group, with Russian involvement, called Kermas, which is currently knocking on South African bank doors to find the money for this deal.

Renova has been backed in Pretoria by officials of the Department of Minerals and Energy, notably deputy minister Lulu Xingwana. Operationally, Renova's dealmaker in SA is a Russian aluminium executive, Mark Buzuk.

The first hint of Renova's interest in SA manganese came from Xingwana, when she visited Renova in Moscow last September. Although reluctant to provide details then, Xingwana endorsed Renova at a public speech in Moscow, and then again on the sidelines of SA-Russia intergovernment trade and economic commission, which was held in Pretoria in November.

Since then, Buzuk has disclosed that his group has signed BEE agreements with three little-known SA companies -- Dirleton, Chancellor House, and most recently, Pitsa Ya Setshaba Holdings.

Renova says that at the request of its partners, the identities of the executives involved in these companies may not be released.

According to a statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources in Moscow last week, there was a meeting at the ministry on February 1, involving Renova and Pitsa Ya Setshaba. This too does not identify the South Africans who attended. Together, the announcement claims, an agreement was signed: "a Russian–South African consortium was created with the aim to obtain manganese prospecting and, consequently, mining permits/licences. Both parties are ready to start the implementation of the project right after the necessary decision will be made by the South African Government on the beginning and conditions of the project implementation."

An intense lobbying effort is currently under way in Pretoria for the Department of Minerals and Energy to approve a new licence. In that context, the Russian announcement is a curious one. Why a commercial relationship, directed at SA mining assets, would be negotiated in Russian government offices is unclear. According to the ministry statement, "the project is of great significance for Russian Federation which is interested in its implementation." The source for that view is identified in the statement as a deputy Russian minister, V.G. Stepankov. The identity of the Renova and Pitsa Ya Setshaba officials, who made their agreement at the ministry, has been kept secret so far.

Even more curious than this unprecedented endorsement for Renova's push into SA from the Russian mining authorities is the fact that the Russians have no intention of granting reciprocal mining rights to SA companies in Russia.

According to a statement last Thursday by the minister in charge, Yury Trutnev, he intends to ban foreign-owned companies from bidding for the rights to mine mineral deposits deemed by his ministry to be strategic. Included immediately in this ban are the Sukhoi Log gold and Udokan copper deposits.

This move has been signaled for many months, not only by Trutnev, but also by President Vladimir Putin's advisor on natural resource policy, Vladimir Litvinenko. The difference between the two advisors, however, is that Litvinenko is also hostile to the Russian oligarchs, and favours new measures to increase their taxation, block their foreign expansion, and reduce their monopolization of reserves in the regions where they are based. If implemented, these measures could put a crimp in Vekselberg's bauxite and aluminium plans inside Russia. They would not be favourable either to expatriation of his cash or assets to foreign havens, such as SA.

Compared to Litvinenko, Trutnev is much more obliging to Vekselberg and other oligarchs, particularly Vladimir Potanin, co-owner of Norilsk Nickel. A ban on foreign mining companies bidding for Sukhoi Log would directly benefit Norilsk Nickel, and lower the price for the asset when the government gets around to auctioning the licence later this year.

As for Renova, it appears that Vekselberg's lobbying strategy has been to get Trutnev and his ministry to press the SA government into one-sided concessions, but keep this secret in South Africa. Xingwana and her colleagues at Minerals and Energy have yet to raise the issue of reciprocity for SA miners in Russia. When queried on this point last September, Xingwana expressed her hostility towards SA "oligarchs" seeking to move their assets offshore to foreign havens. She referred explicitly to Anglo American.

AngloGold Ashanti already has bought a stake in UK-listed Trans Siberian Gold, which has projects in Krasnoyarsk and Kamchatka. It is currently negotiating to acquire a larger stake in St.Petersburg-based Polymetal, a potential rival to Norilsk Nickel for Sukhoi Log.

To pursue a strategy of cashing out of Russia, Vekselberg's SUAL vehicle has so far been unable to convince international investors that it is sufficiently diversified, both in terms of minerals and geography, to mitigate the oligarch risk. The endorsement of Xingwana and her colleagues for a manganese mining project in the Northern Cape -- estimated by Buzuk to cost between $300 and $400 million -- will help Vekselberg to market his asset portfolio for a possible share swap or buyout. But it is unlikely to improve the acceptability of the Russian paper. The addition of the world's best titanium asset may be more persuasive.

In parallel with Vekselberg's push into SA, Renova is positioning itself for a takeover of VSMPO -- an acronym for Verkhnaya Salda Metallurgical Production Association -- the world's largest vertically integrated titanium producer, and the dominant supplier of titanium to the global aerospace industry. The group currently holds a 31 percent share of the world titanium sponge market; in the US, the Russian group holds a 51-percent share of the import market, and is moving to displace rivals to become the principal supplier of titanium for engines and fuselage parts to Boeing. It is already the principal titanium supplier to Airbus. Current sponge capacity of 26,000 tons is to be expanded by investment into electrolyzers to 32,000 tons by 2008.

A rush to develop new titanium sources in Russia has been on for three years now. Other mining houses involved include Norilsk Nickel, which is prospecting areas on the Kola peninsula, far to the northwest of VSMPO's central Russian location.

Along with its affiliate, Avisma ("Special Aviation Materials"), the company is co-owned by Vyasheslav Bresht, VSMPO's chairman, and Vladislav Tetukhin, the CEO, each of whom holds not less than 32-percent stakes. SUAL and Renova, which mounted an unsuccessful hostile takeover bid for VSMPO two years ago, holds 13.4 percent.

Another 10 percent is still held by VSMPO employees, and 12 percent is in free float. Altogether, the current market value of VSMPO is estimated by Russian investment bankers at $1.5 billion.

Bresht fought off Vekselberg once before, and in October 2003, the two camps said they had agreed on halting SUAL's share-buying. Vekselberg's group took a seat on the VSMPO board, and a SUAL spokesman claimed there was also agreement on terms of "cooperation in raw materials supply and metals production. Mainly it is the cooperation between the Kamensk-Uralsky Metallurgical Plant, integrated in SUAL Group, and VSMPO-Avisma."

Now it appears that there was agreement on one more point, though this has remained secret until now. Following briefings of investment analysts in Moscow last week, VSMPO and Renova disclosed jointly that Bresht and Tetyukhin have a put option on Renova beginning from March 4, 2005. This deal provides for either Bresht or Tetyukhin to sell his stake to Renova at an agreed price. Renova would then be obligated either buy the stake, or to sell its own stake at the offer price to the person exercising the option. According to this agreement, Bresht and Tetukhin can exercise their option for a month. Then from April 3, Renova will be able to exercise the option towards the others.

The disclosures contradict Bresht, who has been adamant for weeks that there is no conflict between himself and the other shareholders. This in turn has been delaying government approval of the consolidation of the Avisma unit of the group into VSMPO. The security agencies of the Russian government have yet to say anything on the matter. However, titanium is so vital for the production of Russian military aircraft, rockets, missiles, and other weapons, a Kremlin decision will have to be made if the shareholding dispute threatens to shift ownership of VSMPO abroad. At 73, Tetyukhin, currently VSMPO's CEO, may believe it is time for him to sell out. But the Kremlin may not countenance a sale either into Vekselberg's offshore strategy, or Bresht's Initial Public Offering (IPO) plan.

Tetyukhin has told others, and has been reported in the Russian press as saying that he disagrees on strategic issues with Bresht, and is thinking of selling to the state. On February 1, Bresht told The Russia Journal: "No conflict exists. We are working on the development of the plan, and this is normal operating procedure." A decade ago, Bresht, who made his first fortune importing luxury cars from Germany, took control of the titanium assets after they had been corruptly managed and traded between Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Menatep group and a group of American investors.

Bresht is now emphatic that he will not be a seller. But he has already conceded that he intends to float at least partial control of the titanium assets to foreign investors through an IPO. He has said that he intends to issue American Depositary Shares, probably in the New York market, once he has completed the merger between VSMPO and Avisma, and can satisfy US accounting and disclosure rules, possibly as soon as this year.

If the Kremlin wants, it could block that through a presidential decree listing VSMPO as a strategic asset whose shares cannot be sold without special presidential authority. Litvinenko has not told The Russia Journal whether this is his view in this case, but such a move is consistent with his general policy view. Trutnev is more likely to do what Bresht and Vekselberg want.

In this case, they remain rivals, though it is unclear whether Bresht will be able to outbid Vekselberg for Tetyukhin's stake, estimated to be worth about $500 million; let alone marshal the funds required to buy both of them out at nearly $700 million. "This conflict among key shareholders (especially ahead of the planned IPO) is very negative for the company", Alfa Bank analyst Maxim Matveyev reported.

But even if Vekselberg, advised by Gilbertson, makes his move to buy both Bresht and Tetyukhin out, will the Kremlin object to Vekselberg's broader intention to sell off or swap his Russian assets for foreign ones? Answers Fedor Tregubenko, an analyst for Brunswick UBS in Moscow: "we see Renova buying out both core shareholders as the most probable outcome. The potential subsequent merger of VSMPO and SUAL would seem logical."

Logical for whom? This is the sore point on which Renova's lobbying of both Trutnev and the SA mining authorities is likely to bring Vekselberg directly into conflict with higher-level decision-makers in the Kremlin. For it is in Renova's SA stratregy that Vekselberg gives away the secret of intentions he would rather not have to defend at home. The door to the Kremlin is harder to budge for Vekselberg and Gilbertson than those they have been rapping on in Pretoria.

Rio Tinto keen on smelter project

The Edge Daily, Malaysia - 14 Feb 2005

Rio Tinto Group, one of Australia’s largest companies, is believed to be keen in participating in the proposed multi-billion ringgit aluminium smelter project in Sarawak, sources here say.

This brings the number of Australian companies interested to two. It was reported earlier that BHP Billiton, the world’s largest diversified resources company, had expressed its interest in the project.

Besides the Australian parties, four other groups including joint ventures between local and foreign interests are said to be bidding for the US$2 billion (RM7.6 billion) to US$2.5 billion project.

Sources say Rio Tinto, the world’s third largest mining company, had informed the federal and Sarawak state governments of its interest in the project. Similar talks are believed to have also been held between BHP Billiton and the relevant authorities.

It is believed that the Australian parties are looking at various options in their venture here including joint ventures.

However, an industry observer believes these companies prefer to be in control of the project given the mammoth investment and their expertise in this business.

The sources say Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton will want to know about land matters and infrastructure such as port facilities nearby and power supply, which are crucial for the smelter project.

A source says the Australian companies’ interest in the smelter project had been rekindled after the Malaysian government gave the go-ahead for the Bakun Hydroelectric Dam project.

They are believed to have been keen on the smelter project when it was first mooted, but their interest cooled down when uncertainties over the dam project cropped up.

A consortium — the China National Resources and Hydropower Enghineering Corp and a Sime Darby Bhd-led joint venture of six Malaysian companies — has won the RM1.79 billion contract to build the 2,400MW Bakun dam.

Earlier, there were concerns over the delay in the dam project but these had been addressed with the Chinese party taking over the project management at the Bakun site.

Early this month, Sydney-based Rio Tinto said it would return A$1.5 billion (RM4.48 billion) to investors through share buybacks after soaring Chinese demand led to a big jump in earnings. BHP Billiton has operations in South Africa and Mozambique.

Integrated Aluminium Industry

GhanaWeb, Ghana - Feb 13, 2005

The Impact On Skills Set Enhancement Of Indigenous Human Resources.

Ghanaians and other nationalities with vested interest in the subject matter must have read or learnt with mixed feelings (pros/for and cons/against) the www.ghanaweb.com Business News of Wednesday, 26 January 2005 article: ‘Ghana Signs MOU For Integrated Aluminium Industry’.

Having worked with Kaiser Engineers International Incorporated and VALCO as an electrical engineer and as a metallurgist for a considerable period of time (12 years to be exact), I presume I have some ‘subject matter expertise’ to discuss these issues, amongst others (refer to my previous articles in this regard).

The gist of this article is in line with our (Ghanaians) preparedness to have in place the right types of indigenous (local) professionals, technicians, artisans et al with the required levels of competencies to efficiently and effectively manage the gigantic complex of bauxite mining, alumina refining, aluminium smelting and the tail end – fabrication into end-products (pots, pans, cutlery, extruded products, roofing sheets etc).

From what I read it is my understanding that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be followed by feasibility studies scheduled to be completed (tentatively) by 2006 – a seemingly tight timeframe – if a good job is to be done.

The question again is shall we be ready with the right calibre of Ghanaians to run the Plants efficiently and effectively at the appropriate time. It is incumbent on our engineering and technical tertiary institutions (KNUST and the Technical Institutes and the Medical Schools and the management and Administration faculties) to increase their student intakes to cater for the tasks when we are called upon to do so. Let’s not wait till the responsibility is suddenly thrusted or sprung upon us. We wouldn’t want to be operating in a panic mode. The risk involved accompanied by its consequences would be too expensive to mitigate then.

Engineers and Technical Officers (Mechanical, electrical, systems, electronics, chemical, metallurgical, process control, computing etc), metallographers, field operators, laboratory technicians, carpenters, drivers; Medical practitioners (Doctors), Nurses, Accountants, Managers, Entrepreneurs et al in great numbers with the required quality and attitude would be required at the stipulated timeframe to run these huge entities with modern technology.

The advantages in this regard will be numerous. Ghana will be well positioned to produce and boast of competent professionals who would be able to produce products (value-adding) cognisant of the three major ingredients of project management - timeliness, within budget, whilst meeting the technical (quality) requirements. Secondly, Ghana, with such good crop of indigenous workforce can make some savings and generate good return on investment by cutting down on expatriate professionals. Ghana will generate a local corporate knowledge that can be utilised internally and passed on to generations to come. Additionally, we may have expertise in this particular field that can be exported to other African countries and developing nations.

The potential Ghanaian businessmen who plan to be involved in fabrication of end-products should start planning and coming up with balanced and pragmatic business plans, market surveys (within and beyond Ghana), the required resources (human, equipment and money) and related business and management requirements.

In the area of external market surveys the Trade sections of our Embassies and High Commissions abroad should be in a position to assist local entrepreneurs who may either want to go solo or team up with expatriate businessmen who may want to set up aluminium industries/fabrication plants in Ghana.

Consistent with ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ (reminiscent of my Soviet student days), opening up of the Eastern bloc with their accompanying change of lifestyle and globalisation, a lot of opportunities abound world-wide in the aluminium industry and I would encourage our educational institutions and related training facilities and lending institutions (banks) to assist in this regard to prepare us for the challenge before us in the not too distant future.

From experience it takes a long while to train and produce the levels of competencies required to efficiently and effectively manage these industries. Therefore, let’s be proactive and not reactive.

Charles Agyeman Manu MEng, MAppSc, MBA.

Assistant Director, Professional Development, Australian Public Service.

Member, National Institute for Governance, Australia

Alcan Global Leader in Aluminum Smelter Technology Solutions

Canada NewsWire (press release), Canada - Feb. 15, 2005

MONTREAL, Feb. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Alcan Inc. (NYSE, TSX: AL) announced

today that it is determined to maintain its technological leadership in

aluminum smelting through the development and licensing of technology,

smelting services, equipment sales and engineering, and support services.

"The Pechiney aluminum smelting technology combined with Alcan's low cost

smelter operating know-how and management excellence puts Alcan at the cutting

edge of aluminum smelter technology solutions," said Cynthia Carroll,

President and Chief Executive Officer of Alcan Primary Metal Group at a

gathering of aluminum industry leaders at TMS 2005 in San Francisco. "The

newly acquired proven AP technological and engineering solutions account for

more than 80 percent of smelting capacity installed since 1990 in the Western

World," she added.

Leadership in the development of the most effective value-creating

technology is a fundamental priority for Alcan. The Pechiney AP-30 series of

aluminum smelting technology has an outstanding industrial record. Alcan is

committed to develop the next generation of industry-leading technology,

expected to further reduce investment costs, and increase productivity with

higher safety and environmental standards.

In a thorough analysis of the aluminum sector's current state and its

promising future, Ms. Carroll called on the industry to recognize the need for

action to address the challenges facing the industry in sustainable growth,

and to harness the value drivers of the current business context through the

use of the most advanced technology and management solutions.

"Aluminum remains the material of choice in an ever widening range of

product applications, due to its cost effectiveness and sound environmental

record. Sustainability is an integral part of the enhanced value proposal that

our industry must be able to present to all stakeholders," Ms. Carroll

concluded.

Global Alumina to Commence Trading on Toronto Stock Exchange

PR Newswire (press release) Feb 15, 2005

TORONTO, Feb. 15 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Global Alumina Products

Corporation (Global Alumina) (TSX-V: GPC.U), a company that proposes to

produce alumina for sale to the global aluminum industry, will commence

trading of its common shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the

symbol "GPC.U", when the market opens on Wednesday, February 16, 2005. In

conjunction with its move to the TSX, the Company's shares will be de-listed

from the TSX Venture Exchange at the commencement of trading on TSX.

"We are excited to join the elite group of companies that trade on the

Toronto Stock Exchange," said Bruce Wrobel, Chairman and Chief Executive

Officer of Global Alumina. "The TSX listing will enable a broad group of

investors to join our existing world-class shareholder roster."

In October of 2004, Global Alumina signed an investment and concession

agreement (the Basic Agreement) with the Republic of Guinea for the

development and construction of an alumina refinery in Guinea. The Company is

currently awaiting ratification of the Basic Agreement by the Guinean National

Assembly. The Guinean National Assembly reconvened earlier this week to

address a number of matters and Global Alumina has been advised that

ratification of the Basic Agreement is on the National Assembly's agenda.

ABOUT GLOBAL ALUMINA

Global Alumina Products Corporation (Global Alumina) is a company that

intends to use the vast bauxite resources of Guinea to produce alumina for

sale to the global aluminum industry. Global Alumina is positioned to be one

of the largest companies focused solely on alumina production and sales, and

offers an opportunity for socially responsible investing in a country that

holds over one-third of the world's bauxite resources. Global Alumina is

headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick with operations in Boke, Guinea and

has administrative offices in New York, London, Montreal and Conakry, Guinea.

For further information visit our website at http://www.globalalumina.com.

This press release includes certain "forward-looking statements". All

statements, other than statements of historical fact, included herein,

including without limitation statements regarding future plans, goals and

objectives of Global Alumina, are forward-looking statements that involve a

number of risks and uncertainties. There can be no assurance that such

statements will prove to be accurate and actual results and future events

could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements.

Accordingly, readers are cautioned to not place undue reliance upon the

forward-looking statements included herein.

The TSX Venture Exchange does not accept responsibility for the adequacy

or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE Global Alumina Products Corporation

Web Site: http://www.globalalumina.com

Alcan Denies Report It Considering 2,200 Job Cuts

Reuters Canada, Canada - Mon February 14, 2005 5:01 PM GMT-05:00

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Alcan Inc. denied a report in a French newspaper on Monday that it is considering cutting 2,200 jobs at former French rival Pechiney, which it acquired 14 months ago.

"It's old, rehashed news," said Alcan spokeswoman Anik Michaud.

Alcan provided details of its European restructuring plan on Nov. 25, when it said nine sites were under review, involving the loss of 520 jobs and the creation of 40 others, Michaud said.

Alcan, the world's second-largest maker of primary aluminum, has 46,000 employees in Europe.

In its Monday edition, France's Le Monde said Alcan is considering cutting 2,200 jobs and targeting the sale of 25 sites involving more than 5,149 jobs in Europe by 2006.

"There's no 25 sites," said Alcan's Michaud.

"We've said what we were going to do for 2005. What market conditions come up on us for 2006 -- we don't have a crystal ball," she added.

In its report, Le Monde cited an internal Alcan document dated from September. On Sept. 22, Alcan had denied a union's claim that the Montreal-based company was planning to cut 2,200 jobs in Europe.

Michaud said the Alcan document quoted by Le Monde may have been a working document, "a draft of a draft," written before the company's Nov. 25 announcement on its plans for restructuring nine European sites.

"All the rest of the sites that were mentioned in the article were all addressed by our Nov. 25 announcement," Michaud said.

Alcan shares slipped 66 Canadian cents at C$45.58 in Toronto and fell 45 cents at $36.95 in New York on Monday.

($1$1.23 Canadian)

Bush BPA plan could wallop electric rates, CFAC

Hungry Horse News: Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 - 11:33:26 am PST

By RICHARD HANNERS

Politicians, utility managers and industry leaders across the Pacific Northwest were caught flat-footed by a Bush administration proposal that could result in a 30-to-50 percent hike in Bonneville Power Administration wholesale power prices.

But their reaction has been swift and united in opposition to the proposal.

The proposal could mean stiff hikes for residents and could be detrimental to industries like the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co.

The President's 2006 budget, released Feb. 7, calls for bringing BPA's cost-based power prices in line with market prices -a jump that could go from about $31 per megawatt-hour now to as high as $50.

Sen. Conrad Burns called the proposal "a flat-out bad idea."

"This would have a devastating effect on consumers in Montana and the Northwest," Burns said. "Costs are already increasing to manufacturers and the public due to drought, and this plan would make the burden even worse on consumers. I will not let it stand."

Rep. Denny Rehberg quickly sent a letter off to Office of Management and Budget director Joshua Bolten criticizing the proposal.

"The Pacific Northwest has consistently been one of the region's hardest hit by our nation's economic woes of the last several years," Rehberg said.

Rehberg recalled skyrocketing power prices during the 2000-2001 West Coast energy crisis, which began with California's experiment in electrical deregulation but soon spread across the region, shutting down industries, businesses and irrigation pumps.

"That experience gave Northwest consumers a taste of market rates and the havoc those rates could wreak on the Northwest economy," Rehberg said. "The rate increases persist today, and we do not want our constituents exposed to that kind of devastation again."

CFAC weathered the last energy crisis-but the reduction pots lay idle for more than a year, and half the plant's employees were permanently laid off.

"CFAC, like many farms and families, is struggling to make ends meet," said CFAC general manager Steve Knight. "If this proposal had been enacted a few years ago, it would have been extremely difficult for us to hold on through the high-priced power markets that exist today."

CFAC and two Alcoa smelters in Washington are all that remains of 10 Pacific Northwest plants that once produced more than half the aluminum in the U.S. - and all three are operating at reduced capacity.

CFAC currently pays the BPA about $34 per megawatt hour to run one of the company's five potlines. In the past, CFAC officials have said the smelter could not operate profitably if wholesale power prices exceed $30 per megawatt hour.

"The BPA is a quasi-government agency and should not be in the business of making a profit," Knight said. "This money would be leaving the Northwest, and that would be a huge drain to our local economy. We cannot afford to pay California-based electricity prices. Balancing the budget is a good thing, and it should be done without crippling local economies like ours."

Higher power prices would also impact the local timber industry. Dennis Robinson, general manager of Plum Creek's MDF plant in Columbia Falls, said Plum Creek spends about $18 million for electrical power at its manufacturing plants in the Flathead, Mission and Tobacco valleys.

"The last time Flathead Electric Cooperative raised its prices here, our power costs went up 40 percent," said Robinson, who sat on the Co-op's board of trustees several years ago. "Another big increase would significantly affect our ability to compete. The federal dams on the Columbia River were built to encourage business and industry."

Flathead Electric Cooperative general manager Ken Sugden estimates the Bush proposal could cost the Co-op $15 million to $20 million per year above what it's spending now on power purchases.

The Co-op had hoped to transfer about half its load from a fixed-price contract with PacifiCorp to a long-term BPA contract in 2006, saving Co-op members about $12 million per year.

"Instead of members seeing on average an $18 per month drop on their bills, they could see a $24 increase if the Bush proposal goes through," Sugden said.

The Bush budget proposal calls for capping price increases at 20 percent a year at four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) - the BPA, Georgia-based Southeastern, Oklahoma-based Southwestern and Colorado-based Western. The profit would go to the federal government to compensate taxpayers for years of backing low-interest Treasury loans to the BPA.

"The general taxpayer has helped subsidize the cost of PMA power produced by electricity wholesalers," a Bush administration budget document says. "Reducing subsidies to electricity wholesalers is consistent with the administration's fiscal policies, and this proposal will create a more level playing field for the nation's electricity suppliers and encourage appropriate energy conservation."

Bruce Measure, one of Montana's two representatives on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, takes issue with the administration's claim that U.S. taxpayers subsidize the BPA.

"Pacific Northwest rate payers have paid for the federal dams over and over again," he said. "The BPA has always made its Treasury payments."

Measure said the Bush proposal came as a "major surprise for everyone in the power industry."

"The only people who may have known about it ahead of time are the energy traders who have been pushing this type of thing for a long time but had backed off following the Enron debacle," he said.

Sugden recalled the last time the White House proposed changes in how the BPA sold power. Just like this time, the idea emerged from the Office of Budget and Management, he said, but the director was John Stockman and Ronald Reagan was president. And just like last time, the proposal didn't make much sense, he said.

"I don't see how this will benefit consumers," Sugden said. "Somehow they believe market-based prices will be below cost."

Rehberg said the Bush proposal could cost the Pacific Northwest economy $480 million in 2006 and $2.5 billion over the next three years. Imposing higher power prices in the Pacific Northwest is unfair, he said.

"It is totally unacceptable to artificially jack up power costs in the Northwest in an effort to reduce the trillion dollar-plus federal deficits," he said. "Power costs in the Northwest did not cause the deficit and should not be used to bail the federal government out."

The likelihood of the Bush proposal making its way through Congress is uncertain. Among the vocal opponents is Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Measure called the administration's plan "more posturing than reality."

"President Bush can't be serious," Measure said. "He would have to undo numerous federal acts that govern how the Power Marketing Administrations operate, and it would double or triple energy costs for rate payers in states that supported him in the last election."

Kyoto protocol gets degree of support from some US businesses

Turkish Press, Turkey 16 Feb 2005

Alcoa, the world's top aluminum producer, also began very early to cut its greenhouse gases emissions. Former Alcoa CEO Paul O'Neill, seen here in 2002, who served as treasury secretary for two years under President George W. Bush, told a group of industry professionals in 1998 that "civilization could go down the drain" if climate change was not taken seriously

(AFP/File)

US President George W. Bush's refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol to reduce greenhouse gases, which today took effect, is being countered by some US industries which have adopted measures to staunch global warming.

"A lot of private companies like Dupont, Dow Chemical, Chevron, Conoco, Alcoa, International Paper, IBM ... are actively thinking about this issue," said Richard Rosenzweig, of energy brokers Natsource.

Their decision is a consequence of globalization and the restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from cars and power plants that several US states have imposed.

Most of these businesses have manufacturing plants in countries that have signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. These plants must comply with the treaty, which aims at trimming greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2012 by 5.2 percent compared with the level recorded in 1990.

"If you are a power company in the US," Rosenzweig said, "you believe you might be regulated in the future, you want to be prepared and learn about this issue... these are the main reasons why those companies are involved."

In contrast, many of the leaders in the fossil fuel industry, such as the oil giant ExxonMobil, fully supports the Bush administration, citing the costs Kyoto would add to cleaning up power stations and of the conversion to cleaner energy sources.

On its website, Dupont said it began to cut CO2 emissions at its plants in the early 1990s to forestall market pressures that will develop as the world economy adapts to the challenge of global warming.

Dupont said that over the past 10 years it has cut greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent of what they were in 1990 and that it expects to further reduce them anywhere from 65 to 100 percent by 2010.

More than 50 million dollars has been invested in the clean-up operation, it said.

Dupont has already offset the cost of the C02 reduction by selling polluting competitors, especially in Great Britain, its rights of emissions as well as the technology they need to clean up their act.

Alcoa, the world's top aluminum producer, also began very early to cut its greenhouse gases emissions.

Former Alcoa CEO Paul O'Neill, who served as treasury secretary for two years under Bush's first administration, told a group of industry professionals in 1998 that "civilization could go down the drain" if climate change was not taken seriously.

Alcoa has cut its greenhouse gases emissions to 25 percent of its 1990 levels and, like Dupont, expects to cash in on its investment.

Around 50 US businesses six months ago launched a CO2 emissions exchange in the Chicago stock market to create their own financial inducements similar to Europe's international carbon trading schemes, in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol.

By cutting their CO2 emissions to below promised target levels, they can sell their rights of emissions to companies that have not reached their goals.

"The trading has going very well," said Natsource's Rosenzweig, whose firm helped set up the pilot program.

However, he added, "in the future, in order to get emission reduction we'll need a mandatory program like in Europe."

For Bruce Braine, of American Electric Power, a US electricity giant and participant in the trading scheme, it will be a matter of time before the United States falls into line with the rest of the world: "We believe that at some point in the US there will be mandatory legislation."

Strong economic growth still not enough to bring good times to Jamaica

Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, FL February 16 2005

By Doreen Hemlock Business Writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica · This Caribbean nation expects its best economic performance in a decade this year. But even so, growth remains too low to dent high unemployment or close the gap with robust nations.

Analysts predict moderate 2 percent to 3 percent gains for 2005, fueled by expansion in mining and tourism.

The island is getting a boost from China's hunger for bauxite and alumina, used to make aluminum. And it's buoyed by the trend for U.S. travelers to stay closer to home after the Sept.11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Jamaicans abroad also are sending a steady stream of cash back to the island: more than $1 billion a year.

The forecast comes after 10 years of little or no gains, with growth in 2004 shy of 2 percent. Yet economists say Jamaica should be growing at least 4 percent to cut into widespread joblessness, especially in inner-city ghettos.

The government has scant room to maneuver. About two-thirds of its budget goes to pay down debt. That leaves little cash to improve weak public education, modernize police equipment, upgrade roads or prime the economic pump to get more businesses investing.

"You could say we're broke," said opposition leader Bruce Golding in an interview at Parliament.

The upshot: Joblessness likely won't budge this year from its decadelong levels of 12 to 16 percent, with drug trafficking and crime to remain major problems, especially in ghettos full of jobless youth. Jamaica already posts one of the world's highest murder rates, with a record high of nearly 1,500 killings last year.

Nor can Florida expect big gains in trade with the Caribbean's largest English-speaking nation any time soon.

The value of Jamaica-Florida trade in goods has slid in recent years, especially as Jamaican apparel factories closed and stopped buying U.S. supplies. Jamaica-Florida trade in goods fell from roughly $967 million in 2000 to $713 million in 2003, according to the latest full-year U.S. Commerce Department data.

To revitalize the lagging economy, Jamaica's cash-strapped government is counting on three key sources of foreign currency: mining, tourism and remittances sent back from Jamaicans abroad.

Mining seems most promising, thanks to the ample reserves of bauxite, used to make alumina. Demand today is strong, as is price fueled largely by China's economic boom. Alumina now ranks as the island's top export product, with Jamaica the No. 2 supplier of the product to China.

In December, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc. announced plans to invest roughly $700 million to double capacity at its facilities in Clarendon, Jamaica, by 2009. That expansion should boost alumina exports by $300 million a year, said the Jamaica Bauxite Institute.

Chinese investors also are considering a new alumina plant in St. Ann, Jamaica, which would use bauxite still not tapped in that area, officials said during recent China-Caribbean business meetings.

Jamaica also expects another good year for tourism, which centers on all-inclusive resorts on the north and west coasts, far from the inner-city crime of Kingston.

Through November last year, Jamaica reported a 5.5 percent rise in stopover arrivals to 1.28 million. However, cruise traffic dropped 4.6 percent to about 966,000 passengers, as some ships were diverted in hurricane season.

But in tourism too, Jamaica lags. Last year, the Caribbean overall saw 7 percent growth in overnight arrivals and 13 percent gains in cruise traffic to post records, said the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Jamaica hopes to boost its tallies partly by adding hotels. It expects 5,000 new rooms over the next five years, with many to be developed by hotel chains from Spain.

"We need to have a long pipeline of projects," said Jamaican Development Minister Paul Robertson. "And that pipeline needs to be flowing."

Doreen Hemlock can be reached at dhemlock@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5009.

Renova Goes to Get Platinum In Africa

Kommersant, Russia 17 Feb 2005

As Kommersant learned, Renova Group decided to produce platinum group metals in Republic of South Africa. It seems Viktor Vekselberg, the CEO of SUAL Holding, is not confused by the country’s investment climate, for it’s his second project there. The fact is that Renova’s partners are the companies that belong to black: the joint ventures with their participation let to take advantages of the concessional taxation.

Kommersant has a journal of the last session of the semipublic intergovernmental committee on trade and economic cooperation between Russia and the Republic of South Africa. It says that Renova is about to produce and processing of platinoids "The sides…. confirmed the mutual interest in Renova projects development in the field of producing and processing of metals of the platinum group and the implementing the program of transferring the Russian know-how of metalworking."- the register says.

Renova has 85 percent of SUAL. This is the second greatest aluminum company, which controls aluminum Irkutsk plant, Ural plant, Nadvoitsk plant, Kandalashsky plant, Bogoslovsky plant and Volkhovsky plant, Kamensk-Uralsky metal plant, Boksit Timana company and Northern Ural bauxite mine. Renova also possesses 12.5 percent of TNK- British Petroleum, blocks of stocks in regional ebergy companies and of RAO UES of Russia. Renova announced of the establishing a subsidiary Renova Investment in Republic of South Africa in July of 2004. As far as Kommersant is informed, it will be Mark Buzuk, former head of the Ekaterinburg plant, who will coordinate Renova on the South of Africa.

Renova publicly used to announce of the only one its African project- manganese mining. That is follow-up exploration and development of the deposits of manganese ore in Kalahari Desert. The project is worth of $300 million. Renova mentioned of another its project in Republic of South Africa, but didn’t comment on the details [Kommersant of 19.11.2004]. Yesterday Renova confirmed its interest in African platinum to Kommersant.

"Yes, we do work in that direction."- the company representative told Kommersant. " According to him, the preliminary examinations of such a project have been carried out for half a year. "We’ve seen a hundred of territories, selected some dozens but the geological and economical outlooks are not clear yet. I think we will be ready to talk about that in a few months, maximum six months."- he said.

The members of the precious metals market were surprised to discover Renova decided to deal with platinoids. Norilsky Nikel and Almazyuvelireksport told Kommersant they never heard of newcomer. "The last survey of the platinoid market by Johnson Matthey shows that the platinum market is well balanced now, there’s no deficit. That means that the prices has no tendency to fall, so it’s not far-sightedly to start the project." – one of them said. However Metropol’s analyst Denis Nushtaev thinks the prices will remain stable. "I think the prime cost of platinum production in Africa is lower than in Russia. Besides, the local platinum market is formed and has a definite clientage and the formed channels of marketing."- he said. But he also said that Renova has no experience in platinum production.

"Republic of South Africa is a difficult country of the foreign investor, especially local authorities desire to hire the black. Besides, the last should have 25 percent plus one share in the joint ventures."- one of the members of a Russian company that works with the Republic of South Africa. However, it doesn’t confuse those who subordinate to Viktor Vekselberg. "According to the new legislation, it’s necessary to hire the local population. So, all the Renova’s projects will be implemented together with "black" companies."- they say in Renova. Besides, the joint venture that belongs to the locals will let to take advantages of the concessional taxation.

by Elena Kisileva

Russian Article as of Feb. 17, 2005

DUBAL exceeds global industry standard for average training day per employee in the aluminium industry

AME Info, United Arab Emirates Saturday, February 19 - 2005 at 16:13

Dubai Aluminium Company, DUBAL, one of the world's leading aluminium producers, accomplished an industry feat by exceeding the worldwide industry standard in aluminum for average training day per employee in the year 2004.

Mr. Ibrahim Nasser, Manager, Human Resources Department, DUBAL with trainees

The average training day of 3.5 per employee at DUBAL during 2004 was way ahead of the global industry average of less than 2.75.

This is being achieved under the guidance and support from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, The UAE Minister for Finance and Industry and Chairman of DUBAL, who always maintains that improvement of employees' skills, will ensure better industry standard and higher quality in the workplace. This is to guarantee continued and increased global appreciation of the UAE's progressive measures towards overall human development.

"On its part, DUBAL places extra emphasis on continuous measures towards excellence which depend on sustained quality training and development for all employees. In fact, the company has accomplished this feat only through its commitment and determination to excel in training in all its areas of operation," said Mr. Saif Murooshid, Director, H.H. The Chairman's Office and General Manager, Human Resources and Organisation Effectiveness.

For the year 2004, DUBAL conducted 1,267 training courses out of which 522 were related to operations, 135 linked to environment, health and safety in the work environment and 64 on management development courses. The rest were related to quality improvement and information technology (IT).

All DUBAL management courses are certified by the Institute for Leadership & Management (ILM) in the UK, which has over half a century of experience in management development and recognition of achievement through accreditation and membership. All DUBAL technical courses are certified by City & Guilds, the leading provider of vocational qualifications in the UK.

Out of the total number of courses conducted, 1,186 were organized in-house by the Dubal Training Centre. For the year 2005, DUBAL will be organizing more than 1,300 training courses. Out of this, 1,200 courses will be organized in-house.

"The number of courses that we conduct at DUBAL is an indication of our stress on quality, safety-related measures and overall development of our employees," said Mr. Saif Murooshid.

"In order to upgrade areas that need the latest technology and expertise on our future course, DUBAL is also sending employees abroad for further studies. As a part of this programme, we sent four employees to pursue their Master's degree in areas relevant to the aluminium industry during 2004. For this year, we are planning to send more number of employees abroad so that they can bring back with them the technical skill and know-how that will further benefit the company," said Mr. Ibrahim Nasser, Manager, Human Resources Department, DUBAL.

Since 1998 DUBAL has sent more than 25 managers to two of the world's most renowned and highly reputed institutions – IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland and INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France. IMD is one of the world's leading business schools with over 50 years' experience in developing leadership capabilities of international business executives at every stage of their careers. INSEAD is widely recognised among the world's top-tier business schools as one of the most innovative and influential. To date, DUBAL has spent more than AED 9 million towards such high-quality training programmes and will continue to send more managers on such important leadership and management development courses.

Meanwhile, DUBAL has once again proved its commitment towards nationalization of the UAE industry by recruiting 100 new national staff and meeting the target set for the year 2004. This figure represents a 3% increase over the year 2003. Currently, UAE national staff represents 22% of the entire workforce at Dubal. For 2005, the company is planning to hire 120 nationals.

"Over the past 25 years DUBAL has been playing a leading role in ensuring enough trained nationals are employed. These nationals are provided adequate guidance for their future role so that they excel in their jobs. This significant step is part of the effort towards DUBAL's commitment to nationalization," added Mr. Ibrahim Nasser.

In Memoriam : Ward B.Saunders

Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 12:54:22 -0800

Just to let everyone know my father, Ward B. Saunders Jr., died at home in his bed at about 4PM on Saturday, 19 February 2005. His health, though declining, was good so his death comes as something of a surprise.

We have not made any arrangements yet but we will try to let you know as soon as possible.

Please forward this email to any Kaiser affiliated friends who might wish to know.

Thanks,

Douglas L. Saunders, son

Myra K. Saunders, daughter

Elaine K. Saunders, widow

Hannah E. Tarver-Saunders, granddaughter

Ben W. Westfall, grandson

RUSAL Sanctioned to Acquire Queensland

Kommersant, Russia 21 Feb 2005

One of the world’s aluminum leaders RUSAL has been sanctioned by Australian Foreign Investment Review Board to buy out from Kaiser as much as 20 percent in Queensland Alumina, Ltd (or QAL), Australia, RUSAL said in the statement posted on the company’s web-site.

The deal budget amounts to $401 million. Moreover, RUSAl has committed to assume Kaiser arrears of $60 million, while the latter will assign to RUSAl all existing contracts for alumina shipment as well as the other QAL-related contracts.

RUSAL won the auction on selling for 20 percent in QAL past October. The purchase will be the first big investment of Russia’s company in Australia.

The deal, which has been previously approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware but needs sanction of the QAL two holders and creditors, is slated for completion in the middle of April. Today, Alcan holds 41.6 percent of the QAL stocks, Comalco has 38.6 percent.

RUSAL was founded in 2000. Globally, it is a top-3 producer of aluminum and alloys with 2004 annual sales over $5.4 billion.

by www.kommersant.com

Global Alumina Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Technip to Serve as EPC Contractor

PRNewswire Date : Monday - February 21, 2005

TORONTO, Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Global Alumina Products Corporation (Global Alumina) (TSX: GPC.U), a company that proposes to produce alumina for sale to the global aluminium industry, announced today that it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Technip based in Paris, France, whereby Technip will act as the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) contractor for Global Alumina's planned 2.8 million tonnes per year alumina refinery to be located in the Republic of Guinea.

"With a workforce in excess of 19,000 and an annual turnover in excess of US$6.5 billion, Technip ranks among the top five corporations in the world in the field of petrochemical, chemical and industrial engineering, construction and related services," said Bruce J. Wrobel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Global Alumina.

"Technip is currently implementing major industrial projects in Africa, most notably Nigeria, Angola and South Africa and according to Engineering News Record is the second largest contractor in Africa. This makes Technip ideally suited to deliver to Global Alumina its refinery on time and on budget. We welcome Technip to our expanding team of contractors, advisors and consultants dedicated to the successful completion of this project," added Mr. Wrobel.

EU Energy Prices Threaten Aluminium Smelters

Planet Ark, NY February 23, 2005

LONDON - Soaring EU energy prices could force up to half the economic bloc's aluminium smelters to shut in the next five years, industry officials planned to tell the EU on Monday.

"We are having a meeting with people from the (European) Commission, where we will talk about trade issues and competitiveness -- the price of energy," Didrik de Thibault, director of public affairs and communications for the European Aluminium Association (EAA), said in advance of the meeting to be held in Brussels.

"Our projections suggest electricity prices will double by 2010 unless action is taken," de Thibault said.

"At present conditions up to half of the EU's primary aluminium capacity is in danger of closure in the next few years. This will inevitably have a serious effect on downstream industry, where the greatest added value is," he added.

Last week the United Nations Kyoto Protocol on curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for disrupting the climate took effect. Under Kyoto, developed nations will have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Those exceeding the 2012 goals will be penalized with bigger cuts than the average targets from 2012.

HIGH ENERGY PRICES

"The high price of energy is not justified by Kyoto alone," de Thibault said.

"There is a lack of cross-network infrastructure. There are five separate markets in Europe which do not compete with each other," he said.

Thomas Knutzen, information manager at Hydro Aluminium, part of Norwegian energy and metals group, Norsk Hydro, said EU regulations to reach Kyoto targets were a significant cost.

"The impact remains to be seen, but for the EU aluminium industry there are estimates that it will cost 500 million euro ($653.1 million). That is not far from our wage costs," he said.

Aluminium smelting, which produces carbon dioxide, does not fall under Kyoto, however the energy required to reduce alumina, or aluminium oxide into metal, does.

"Europe is already importing more than half its primary aluminium needs. There will be no new capacity and some existing capacity will disappear and all (additional) future needs will have to be covered by imports," Knutzen said. "There will be relocation of primary aluminium. How much and how fast are the big questions."

Supporters of the 141-nation climate pact, which does not include the United States, or developing economies such as China and India, say it is a tiny first step to slow global warming by imposing legally binding caps on greenhouse-gas emissions -- mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars -- in 35 developed nations.

Many climate experts fear temperature rises will disrupt farming, raise sea levels by melting icecaps, cause more extreme weather like hurricanes or droughts, spread diseases and wipe out thousands of animal and plant species by 2100.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

Bauxite Industry Is Set To Take Off This Year

Harold Doan and Associates, CA - Feb. 22 2005

Press Release - Government Information Agency

Minister Finance, Saisnarine Kowlessar said in his budget speech in Parliament today the Bauxite industry is poised to take off this year. The industry is expected to grow by a remarkable 51.7 percent.

The Russian Aluminum Company (RUSAL) will be investing US$20M in the new entity-Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI). The BCGI will eventually merge with Aroaima Mining Company (AMC). AMC will be doubling its production capacity to 2.5M tonnes per annum by 2006.

If a US$10M feasibility study conducted by RUSAL on a US$1B alumina plant finds this project viable, the way will be paved for the establishment of this large investment in Guyana. This investment would not only safeguard and expand bauxite operations, it will increase economic activities, and improve income and job prospects in the Berbice area.

The new company, Omai Bauxite Mining Inc. in Linden, a joint venture of the Government of Guyana and Cambior will benefit from a US$40M investment with US$24M being invested by July 2005. A second phase, requiring another US$14.5M will follow shortly. The company expects to generate its own power by April this year.

The company has already re-employed 575 persons and as production expands, another 225 could be employed in the next 18 months. Increased bauxite operations also mean the creation of a number of additional jobs for small and medium scale operators, and an increase in the standard of living of people. Further, once Omai commences generation of its own power, it will be able to satisfy the electricity needs of the entire community.

These project would bring stability to the local bauxite industry and will create thousands of jobs during the construction and operation stages.

Government is encouraging medium and large-scaled operators in the gold mining industry to fill the void that will be created with the closure of Omai Gold Mines Limited in August 2005. Already, Vanessa Ventures, a company that has been exploring its concession in the Marudi Mountains in Region 9, is conducting tests that may lead to the development of an underground mine to extract the area’s gold reserves. Two other companies, Gold Stone Resources, in the Pakaraima area, and Guyana Goldfields, in the Cuyuni River, are conducting similar explorations for gold.

A major Spanish firm, REPSOL, has joined CGX Energy Inc in a heightened search for oil. CGX Energy Inc is investing a further US$7.3 million to drill up to five wells in an area with a high probability of gas and oil finds. Another company, Groundstar Resources Limited, is examining the feasibility of exploring for oil in the Takutu Basin, the same region where Home Oil conducted promising explorations in the early 1980’s.

In 2004, the economy grew by 1.6 percent. The total budgeted expenditure of $86.4B this year represents a 14% increase over the $75.6B estimates for 2004 making the 2005 Budget the largest in Guyana’s history. The economy is expected grow by 2.2 percent this year.

Russkiy Aluminum and Kazakhstan investors in Central Asian projects

Kazinform, Kazakhstan 22 Feb 2005

Moscow. February 22. KAZINFORM /Arnur Rakhymbekov/- Deputy Director of the Russian company Russkiy Aluminum Alexander Livschits informed Kazinform that RusAl is actually considering possibility of Kazakhstani investors to share joint investment of some enterprises dealing with aluminum mining in Central Asia.

"At first, we mean cooperation with Kazakhstan’s businessmen on construction of hydro-electric station Kambaratinskaya in Kyrgyzstan. To my mind, Kazakhstan’s investors have financial potential to contribute to perspective projects", said A. Livschits. In his view, to provide the whole production cycle of aluminum extraction sources of energy and alumina are to be in the Central Asian area. Prime cost of energy output of the Central Asian hydro-electric stations is rather lower than the mean level what also makes for investment attractiveness.

RusAl is also involved in the project on aluminum plant construction on the basis of the hydro-electric station Rogunskaya being under construction in Tajikistan.

KAZINFORM Note: Alexander Yakovlevich Livschits is a doctor of economics, a professor. In 1994 he was appointed a director of the expert group under the Russian President. During 1994-1996 he had been an assistant to the Russian President on economic issues. 1997-1998 – a deputy director of the presidents’ administration. 1999-2000 - a minister and representative of the Russian president on industrially developed countries’ affairs. Since 2001 – a deputy director of the Russian company Russkiy Aluminum.

Hydro jobs axed

Maitland Mercury, Australia Wednesday, 23 February 2005

MICHELLE KEOGH

A further 58 jobs will be axed at a Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter in the second round of jobs cuts announced by the company in the past four months.

Employees of Hydro Aluminium were told yesterday jobs at the smelter would be cut by about 10 per cent.

The reduction will see 23 production jobs, 22 maintenance positions and 13 workshop roles phased out during the next 10 months.

The jobs will come from the potlines, carbon plant and maintenance crews, with some of the maintenance work to be out-sourced to contractors.

This comes on top of an announcement last October of 64 jobs being cut over the next three years as a result of a $23 million modernisation of the smelter's casthouse facilities.

Chief executive officer Trevor Coombe said it was necessary to secure the smelter's long-term survival against increasing international competition.

But Australian Workers Union (AWU) Newcastle branch president John Keen said the company was taking the easy way out.

"It's too easy just to cut heads," Mr Keen said.

"The employees can't understand why they're cutting so many jobs.

"The problem is they're trying to benchmark against Norway but it's a whole different ball game over there."

Mr Coombe said Hydro's work systems had come under the microscope.

"We can no longer ignore international efficiency benchmarks which show the Kurri Kurri plant cannot compete in the long term," he said.

But the union is concerned how the company will function to capacity with the reduced workforce.

"This is a big slice of the workforce, especially as they still haven't demonstrated how they're going to do it in the casthouse," Mr Keen said.

"All they've said is this is about (employees) work practices which are restricting the company from having maximum output.

"But these came out of the last massive workforce reduction in the early 90s, it's not just that the blokes aren't having a go."

A mass meeting with delegates from the three unions represented at the plant - AWU, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) - and the workers will take place at the end of the week.

"The problem is we can't take legal industrial action over this because under the legislation that is only allowed in the lead-up to the bargaining period for an enterprise agreement," Mr Keen said.

INTERVIEW:China Chalco Looks To Australia To Up Capacity

Yahoo News Thursday February 24, 1:14 PM

By Malcolm Scott Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--China's largest alumina supplier, Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. (ACH), or Chalco, reaffirmed Thursday its interest in the Aurukun bauxite deposit on Cape York Peninsula in the northeastern Australian state of Queensland.

"We are seeking opportunities to develop Chalco's capacity overseas - including Australia, for example we will take any opportunity to develop bauxite resources here," Joshua Chen, vice president and chief financial officer of Chalco, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview on Thursday.

"Our strategy is to accelerate our alumina capacity and selectively increase our aluminum capacity," he said.

Wenfu Wang, chief representative of Chalco in Australia, said the company remains in close contact with Queensland government officials, but wouldn't give further details on Chalco's interest in the site.

"We are very actively reviewing the opportunities in Queensland and we are very confident that we will have a good chance to participate in that."

"There will be more certainties by the end of this year," Wang said.

The Queensland government wants to see the bauxite deposit mined and at least a new alumina refinery developed at Aurukun.

Early last year, the state revoked a mining lease over the deposit held by Aluminum Pechiney Holdings Pty. Ltd., now a unit of Canada's Alcan Inc. (AL), with a minister saying Pechiney's inactivity had been a grave disappointment and concern to the government.

Then in November, Queensland named nine major global resource companies to advise on the future of the Aurukun resource and help the government prepare a robust international competitive bidding process for the deposit, estimated to contain 500 million metric tons valued at well over A$10 billion.

The nine are Chalco; Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd.; Alcoa World Alumina Australia (AA); BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP); Comalco Aluminium Ltd., a unit of Rio Tinto Ltd. (RTP); Gallipoli Mining Pty Ltd.; Gulf Alumina Pty Ltd.; Mitsubishi Corp. (8058.TO) and Russian Aluminum (RAL.YY), or Rusal.

Chen, in Sydney to participate in an Asian debt issuers forum, said the company currently has no plans to tap funds in Australia but may do so if it successfully participates in an Australian project.

Strong Alumina Demand Expected In 2005

Chen said Chalco expects to supply about 7.2 million tons of the 15 million tons of anticipated alumina demand in China this year.

The remaining demand will be largely met by Australian suppliers such as BHP Billiton, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, he said.

With Chinese demand running hot, Chen said he expects prices for Australian exporters to remain lofty in the year ahead.

"The demand for alumina is so strong but the supply of alumina is limited," he said.

"Although there are a lot of constructions for new capacity and the production will come up in 2006 or even 2007, but still for this year and next year the supply and demand is not balanced - demand is much more than supply."

Chen said most of Chalco's new capacity will be on stream by the end of this year, boosting its production capacity to 8.5 million tons by the end of 2005.

As for 2006 and 2007, Chen said there may be further capacity growth, "but not much."

Chen expects alumina demand of "at least" 15 million tons next year.

In a research report this week Macquarie bank increased its aluminum price forecast for 2005 to US$1,984 a metric ton, from US$1,764 a ton, to reflect the tightening physical availability of the metal.

Macquarie expects a global market deficit of 350,000 tons this year, with the risks skewed toward a larger shortfall.

Chen said Chalco's 2005 alumina prices will depend on aluminum prices.

"The alumina price is very sensitive because you have to look at the smelters, because the aluminum price in China is not very good...we don't want the smelters bankrupt - they are our customers - we want them to make money and we can make a lot of profit - that's the strategy," he said.

Australian alumina exporters don't face those same restrictions, with market prices prevailing, he said.

"Most of Australian alumina exports to China are by the market - the price fluctuates - with Chalco we fix our eyes on the input price," he said.

The London Metal Exchange three month aluminum spot price was at US$1,972 on Thursday.

Kaiser Aluminum Obtains Court Approval of Disclosure Statements for Alumina Subsidiaries

Business Wire (press release), CA February 23, 2005

HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 23, 2005--Kaiser Aluminum announced that, with some clarifying modifications announced at a hearing today, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware has approved the amended disclosure statements for two separate liquidating plans relating to the subsidiaries through which the company has conducted certain alumina operations in Jamaica and Australia.

The company expects to file amended plans and disclosure statements containing these modifications within the next few days. None of the modifications is expected to affect any of the proposed distributions previously contained in the prior filed documents.

The first is for the liquidating plan relating to Alpart Jamaica Inc. (AJI) and Kaiser Jamaica Corporation (KJC), the subsidiaries through which Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation (KACC) owned its interests in Alumina Partners of Jamaica (Alpart), a partnership that owns and operates a bauxite mining operation and alumina refinery located in Jamaica. As previously announced, AJI and KJC sold their interests in Alpart on July 1, 2004.

The second disclosure statement is for the liquidating plan relating to Kaiser Alumina Australia Corporation (KAAC) and Kaiser Finance Corporation (KFC). A wholly owned subsidiary of KACC, KAAC owns a 20% interest in Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL), which owns and operates an alumina refinery located in Australia. KACC and KAAC expect to close on the sale of their interests in QAL to Rusal around the end of the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2005. KFC is a wholly owned subsidiary of KAAC. Its primary assets are intercompany loans to KACC and certain of KACC's other subsidiaries.

Approval of these disclosure statements marks the point from which solicitation and voting on the liquidating plans can begin. The Court has scheduled a hearing to begin on April 13 to consider confirmation/approval of the two liquidating plans.

Separately, the Court has approved an extension of the period of exclusivity through April 30 for AJI, KJC, KAAC, and KFC -- and through June 30 for KACC and the remaining Kaiser entities.

Alcan signs deal to develop Omani smelter

Montreal Gazette, Canada Canadian Press Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Aluminum producer Alcan Inc. has signed a deal that will give it a stake in the development of an aluminum smelter project in Oman, the company said Wednesday.

Under the deal, Alcan (TSX:AL) has committed to a 20 per cent stake in the Sohar Aluminium Company L.L.C., with Oman Oil Company S.A.O.C. and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority each owning a 40 per cent share.

Financial terms of the deal were not released.

The proposed 325-kilotonne per annum aluminum smelter project in Sohar, Oman will consist of a single AP35 potline, together with carbon and casting facilities and an 800 Megawatt gas-fired power station.

Under a technology transfer agreement, Alcan will provide Sohar with a licence and technical services for implementing its AP35 Technology.

The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2005, construction will begin shortly after and full production is expected by 2008.

Alcan, multinational producer of aluminum and packaging materials and recycler, employs 73,000 people and has operating facilities in 56 countries and regions.

Shares in Alcan were untraded early Wednesday at $47.35 per share on the Toronto stock exchange.

Alcan, Oman Oil Company, and Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority Sign Sohar Aluminium Company Shareholder Agreement

ArriveNet (press release), CO -PRNewswire Wednesday - February 23, 2005

ABU DHABI, UAE, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Alcan Inc. (NYSE, TSX: AL) announced that it has signed a Shareholders' Agreement today with the Oman Oil Company S.A.O.C. (OOC) and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) in the development of a proposed 325-kilotonne per annum aluminum smelter project in Sohar, Oman. In June 2004, Alcan announced that it is committed to a 20 percent stake in the Sohar Aluminium Company L.L.C., with OOC and ADWEA each owning a 40 percent share.

The agreement was signed in Abu Dhabi by H.H. Sheikh Diab Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, H.E. Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of OOC, and Cynthia Carroll, President and Chief Executive Officer, Alcan Primary Metal Group.

H.H. Sheikh Diab Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said, "This strategic project represents a landmark stage in the path of bilateral brotherly joint cooperation between Abu Dhabi Government and the Oman Sultanate. We have the pleasure to cooperate with globally renowned companies like Alcan. The signature of the agreement shall mark the launch towards the construction of the Sohar Aluminium which we anticipate to be one of the major projects in this field." His Highness further explained, "The expansion of ADWEA commitments to involve other economical activities is a result of ADWEA's interaction with modern market economies, and the sustainable success of its projects being executed within its privatization program, noting that Sohar Aluminium is dependent on the power plant. ADWEA is presently involved in common projects with other countries of the region which shall set the preliminary platform for the prospective GCC economical integration."

"With this joint venture, we believe that Alcan will provide the finest technology services to implement AP35 Technology for the smelter. This project will put forward employment opportunities in different fields within the Battinah coast, and highly technical jobs of international standards, both bringing added value to Oman," said H.E. Maqbool Ali Sultan. "We are pleased to be associated with Alcan and ADWEA in the Sohar Aluminium project," His Excellency added.

"Today marks an important step for Alcan in consolidating our partnership in this project, further demonstrating our leading position in smelting technology, as well as enhancing our low-cost position," Cynthia Carroll said. "Furthermore, we are proud to develop and expand the scope of our aluminum production to this growing and dynamic region of the world, contributing to maximizing value for our shareholders," she added.

Sohar was formed on September 15, 2004 to own and operate the new aluminum smelter, which will be based adjacent to the existing Sohar Industrial Area. Sohar will build a single AP35 potline, together with associated carbon and casting facilities and an 800MW gas fired power station. This will be the first time that proven AP35 Technology is used in a greenfield smelter. A second potline of similar capacity is planned to be established in the future. The new smelter will provide a major economic boost to the Al Battinah Region of Oman.

Under a technology transfer agreement concluded the same day, Alcan will provide Sohar with a license and related technical services necessary to implement Alcan's AP35 Technology. ADWEA will be providing technical services and management support for the power plant.

The bids for the Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) Management for the smelter are currently being evaluated; a response to the power plant EPC tender is expected shortly. At present, Sohar is recruiting its management team to oversee the construction and operational phases.

The decision as to when the venture closes financially is expected in the second half of 2005, as well as a final construction approval date. Construction activities will begin shortly thereafter, with full production expected by 2008.

QLD: Government Weighing Options For Aurukun Bauxite says Beattie

ABC Message Stick, Australia 25 Feb 2005

The Queensland Government today discussed the future of one of the world's major bauxite deposits with leading international aluminium companies and Indigenous community representatives.

Premier Peter Beattie said the corporate representatives, who form the Aurukun Industry Reference Group, had an important role in advising the government on preparation of a competitive bid process for the Aurukun resource.

"The Aurukun Project has tremendous potential to create new exports and economic development, including a new alumina refinery that could create 1,000 jobs," Mr Beattie said.

"As the government prepares the information memorandum that will establish a robust international bidding process later this year, the Industry Reference Group's input and advice will be invaluable.

"The meeting is part of our ongoing consultation with industry.

"The government has also set up a web site (www.aurukunproject.qld.gov.au) for the Industry Reference Group to enable information to be distributed as soon as it is received and also to allow industry to provide progressive feedback," Mr Beattie said.

Minister for State Development and Innovation Tony McGrady said the Aurukun Industry Reference Group included representatives from leading alumina refining and aluminium smelting companies: Alcan, Alcoa, BHP Billiton, CHALCO, Comalco, Mitsubishi Corporation, Hindalco, RUSAL and local companies, Gallipoli Mining and Gulf Alumina.

"The members have a consultative role with the Government and we are very interested to hear their views on various issues relating to this project," Mr McGrady said.

"For instance, today's meeting was convened to seek the Group's views on issues including resource definition, infrastructure, plant location studies and environmental issues.

"The meeting received an update on the Government's 2004 drilling program (575 test holes drilled) and considered the extent of additional drilling required in the 2005 dry season.

"In completing the bid documents the Government will, in all cases, make final decisions taking into account advice received from the Industry Reference Group, the Indigenous community and our appointed advisors."

Mr McGrady said the Government was committed to getting this project off the ground.

"That is why we have gone to great lengths to engage the international leaders in alumina and aluminium processing," he said.

Mr McGrady said that subject to there being sufficient information and advice available later this year, the Government would consider initiating the formal Expressions of Interest process to develop the deposit.

Source: Queensland Government

Rep lobbies to keep Ormet's plants open

Marietta Times, OH 24 Feb 2005

By Tom Hrach, thrach@mariettatimes.com

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland and the area's state legislators are urging a bankruptcy court to allow for the sale of the Ormet Corp. aluminum plants in Monroe County, where workers have been on strike since November.

During a bankruptcy hearing Wednesday in Columbus, a representative from Strickland's office presented a brief that urges the company to keep the plants open even if that includes finding a new owner of the plant.

"We feel it is imperative that the court remove the exclusivity in the bankruptcy reorganization so other companies that may be interested in the plant would be allowed to consider buying it," Strickland said. "Ormet is a vital part of the economy in eastern Ohio, and I'm committed to doing everything in my power to keep the plant open."

Also joining Strickland in the filing were state lawmakers including Ohio Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, and Ohio Sen. Joy Padgett, R-Coshocton.

About 1,300 employees at the Ormet operations in Monroe County went on strike in November and remain out of work. The company, based in Wheeling, W.Va., went into bankruptcy re-organization in January 2004.

A spokesman for Ormet said what the legislators are seeking would only delay the company emerging from bankruptcy.

"A lot of people with the best of intentions have been seeking to re-open a process that is already complete," said Roy Winnick, spokesman for Ormet.

Winnick said he expects the company would emerge from bankruptcy in the "near future," and the efforts by legislators to get involved would not help the company or the workers.

"The problem is the delay associated with that would be months, and if legislators want to do the best for the Ormet jobs, they should be doing everything possible to support the re-organization plan," Winnick said.

The Ormet operations are the largest single employers in Monroe County. According to Strickland's office, the future of Ormet could also affect retiree benefits and everyone in the region who is indirectly tied to the jobs at the plant. In the past, the company has denied that the current reorganization plan would affect retiree benefits.

The December 2004 unemployment rate for Monroe County was reported to be 18.1 percent, one of the highest of any county in Ohio.

Garrison said she got involved because of how critical the plants are to the area's economy.

"If we can do anything to get people back to work, we will do it," Garrison said.

Caught in the middle of the dispute are the workers, represented by the United Steelworkers of America.

"I don't see why the company is fighting selling it. They've been shutting down parts of the plant for years," said Sam McCauley, 45, of 115 Arrow Drive, Marietta. "It's gone on too long already. I hope (Strickland) can do something to help us out."

Intalco aims for BPA power deal

Bellingham Herald, WA 24 Feb 2005

Smelter says profit, hundreds of jobs at stake

John Stark, The Bellingham Herald

Alcoa Inc. has proposed a new electric power-sharing arrangement that would enable full production and rehiring of workers at its Alcoa Intalco Works smelter west of Ferndale in the years ahead.

But the proposal appears likely to face the usual stiff opposition from other users of low-cost Bonneville Power Administration hydroelectric power, who fear that low-cost power for aluminum production means higher-cost power for them.

Intalco Manager Mike Rousseau explained the company's complex proposal Wednesday at a noon meeting with members of the company's community advisory board. Also on hand was U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens.

As Rousseau outlined it, Alcoa wants a long-term deal that will enable it to operate its plants here and in Wenatchee at a profit, maintaining hundreds of union-wage jobs. That deal would include:

438 megawatts of low-cost BPA power in Alcoa's next three-year deal with BPA, after its present contract expires Sept. 30, 2006. The company is entitled to get that much under its current BPA contract, but it is using only 177 megawatts because the price is too high to make aluminum profitably.

625 megawatts after that three-year deal expires - enough to operate both the Ferndale and Wenatchee smelters at full capacity.

An agreement that Alcoa would cut its power consumption if BPA had to purchase too much market power at high rates to meet the demands of its other customers.

Rousseau said Alcoa has been operating the Intalco smelter at about 40 percent of capacity, and that makes no sense in the long term.

"It's important that we get enough power to run full out," he said. "We need to start running at capacity and stop going from year to year keeping things warm."

At full capacity, Alcoa would need many more than the 480 people now employed at Intalco, Rousseau said, declining to say how many more.

But in communities without aluminum smelters, many people take a dim view of using so large a share of public power to keep the region's once-robust aluminum industry alive. The amount of power Alcoa now seeks is far less than the 1,317 megawatts it got in the 1990s to operate five smelters, but it would still be equivalent to roughly one-third to one-half the power consumption of Seattle.

Jerry Leone is manager of the Public Power Council, a group that represents public utilities. Leone said her council's board has yet to scrutinize Alcoa's proposal and will give it a serious look. But she said the proposal does nothing to solve the basic problem: BPA no longer has anywhere near enough low-cost power to meet the region's needs.

The more power that goes to aluminum, the more BPA will need to purchase costly power from other sources to supply its customers, Leone said. That means higher costs to those customers.

"You've got a problem no matter how you slice the cookie," she said.

BPA spokesman Ed Mosey agreed, saying that the BPA is not willing to approve an arrangement in which other power purchasers pay more to subsidize cheaper power for aluminum.

"If other ratepayers' costs go up because we're serving (smelters), that's an unacceptable result," he said.

But Mosey too said Alcoa's proposal would get a serious look before BPA officials put together their power-sharing regime for the years ahead.

Rousseau said Alcoa also wants to change the delivery system for its power. Until now, Alcoa and other aluminum companies bought their power direct from BPA. Starting in 2006, Rousseau said the company would prefer to get its power for Intalco via Whatcom County Public Utility District, if BPA would agree to provide a sufficient supply of low-cost power to the PUD for that purpose.

Tom Anderson, manager of the local PUD, said that would be fine with him, but he noted that PUD officials outside Whatcom County or the Wenatchee area are not likely to approve of so large an allocation of BPA power to Alcoa.

"Alcoa's asking for a lot," Anderson said. "They're sticking a stake in the ground, way out there, and hoping for some kind of compromise."

Vicki Henley, chief steward with Local 2379 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the Intalco workers she represents want the job certainty that a long-term deal would bring. The years of uncertainty have been tough on those who depend on Intalco for a living.

"They're scared," she said. "There's a level of fear, frustration, anxiety even."

Reach John Stark at 715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com.

Aluminium touches 10-year high

Sydney Morning Herald (subscription), Australia February 25, 2005 - 12:40PM

Aluminium touched a 10-year peak but afternoon profit-taking cooled a red-hot market on the LME.

Star performer zinc, up more than 12 per cent since the start of the year, traded around a 7-1/4-year peak before the late sell-off.

Copper continued to eye an all-time high of $3,280 a tonne, set 16 years ago.

Aluminium for three-month delivery on the London Metal Exchange moved into new territory to trade at 10-year highs above $1,980 a tonne, before a close at $1,912, which compared with $1,969 overnight.

Smelter strike

Victoria Spectator Observer Group, Australia 23 February2005

Portland Observer

STRIKE action stopped production at the Portland Aluminium smelter on Monday when unionists walked off the site due to a dispute about cleaners' entitlements.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union south-west region organiser Mark Solly said members of his union walked off the job in support of Australian Workers Union members, whose entitlements were at risk.

He said unionists had met with smelter management prior to the strike to demand Portland Aluminium meets any outstanding entitlements of 12 cleaners who work at the smelter under its contract with Skyways, which is in voluntary administration.

Mr Solly said the entitlements of Skyways cleaners at other sites were also in jeopardy, including at Alcoa's Point Henry smelter.

"Portland Aluminium said the contractors' entitlements were not its responsibility and refused to put checks and balances in place to protect other contractors in similar situations in future," he said, adding that the unions responded with strike action.

Mr Solly said all staff production and maintenance workers, as well as contractors, withdrew their labour, leaving only a skeleton safety crew at the smelter.

He said staff workers took strike action from noon until 8pm on Monday and contractors returned to work yesterday morning.

The strike was the subject of an Industrial Relations Commission hearing yesterday morning.

Mr Solly said he expected the commission would order workers to return to the job, but they had already done so.

A spokesperson for Portland Aluminium was preparing a written statement regarding the commission hearing yesterday, but it was not available at the time the Portland Observer went to print.

Mr Solly said he expected negotiations on the matter would continue on Monday and although Skyways workers' entitlements from February onwards were secure due to the company being in administration, there were uncertainties about superannuation for a previous period.

"There is a chance the cleaners will come out well, but there is no guarantee workers will get their entitlements when a company goes into voluntary administration," he said, adding that large companies like Alcoa had a moral obligation to protect all workers at its operations, including contractors.

New aluminium deals to use local technology

Moneycontrol.com, India 24 Feb 2005

Any new agreements to expand Venezuelan aluminium output with foreign partners, including plans for a fifth production line at the Alcasa aluminum smelter, will use local technology, Venezuela's minister of mining and basic industries, Victor Alvarez, said.

Any new agreements to expand Venezuelan aluminium output with foreign partners, including plans for a fifth production line at the Alcasa aluminium smelter, will use local technology, Venezuela's minister of mining and basic industries, Victor Alvarez, said.

"Development in the aluminium industry has to be based on technologies that we have developed," Alvarez told reporters following a meeting at the National Assembly. "This is a condition we are going to put on the table with all investors," he added.

Switzerland-based Glencore International AG has expressed interest in financing an expansion at the state-run Alcasa smelter. The state-run smelter currently has a capacity of 210,000 metric tons a year. Alvarez said the additional line could add 220,000 tons a year of additional output at a cost of around $500 million. He did not give a time frame for the investment.

Alvarez said Venezuela has the technology to produce primary aluminium but is seeking "technology transfer" agreements with foreign partners to develop the nation's downstream metals industry.

"The aluminium generated in the country will be processed in the country," said Alvarez, following a meeting with lawmakers to discuss reforms to the nation's mining law. "We are interested in contracts that guarantee the transfer of technology, and guarantee the training of national human resources," he said.

Alvarez explained that Venezuela exports primary aluminium, and then often imports aluminium products manufactured abroad, a cycle Venezuela is looking to break.

"We are not going to continue as simple suppliers of basic materials to large multinational corporations," he said.

Alvarez said Veneuzela would respect existing aluminium supply contracts but said any future production would be processed locally into "value-added" products.

Union tries to block parts of Ormet plan

Contra Costa Times (subscription), CA 2/25/2005, 3:50 p.m. ET

By CARRIE SPENCER

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Striking steelworkers are again trying to stop bankrupt aluminum maker Ormet Corp. from imposing new labor contracts at two plants in southeast Ohio and forcing retirees to pay more for health insurance.

The United Steelworkers of America also wants the judge to allow other companies to bid on Ormet's two plants in Hannibal, about 115 miles southeast of Columbus.

Judge Barbara Sellers approved the company's plan to leave bankruptcy, and earlier allowed Ormet to break contracts with workers at the two plants.

In a three-day hearing that began Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the company sought approval of three elements of putting the plan into effect: imposing new contracts on striking workers, changing the retiree health plan and keeping the exclusive right to own and operate the company as it emerges from bankruptcy. The union objected to all three.

More than 1,200 workers went on strike Nov. 22, and the company has been using salaried employees to run the plants. Ormet has about 2,200 employees and operations in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Louisiana.

The company, based in Wheeling, W.Va., has said it needs concessions from the workers to save $23 million a year and survive, including $5 million in savings from its projected $15 million in 2005 retiree health costs. The health care proposal affects 1,860 of its 2,640 retirees.

Even with the savings, the company told the court Ormet would not be profitable until 2007.

The plan would not affect pension payments to retirees, company spokesman Roy Winnick said.

But the health plan changes would cut some retirees' income in half, said John Falkenstein, treasurer of Steelworkers Local 5760. Retirees now pay $120 monthly premiums. Under the plan they would rise to $460 for a couple and $760 for family coverage.

"We were always led to believe we'd have security when we retired," said George Herndon, of Richfield, Ohio, a 38-year Ormet employee who retired eight years ago.

Arguments continued Friday. It was not clear when Sellers would rule.

On the Net:

http://www.ormet.com

http://www.uswa.org

Valco donates technical equipment to skill training centre

GhanaWeb, Ghana 25 Feb 2005

Nerebehi (Ash), Feb. 25, GNA - The Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) Trust has donated quantities of technical and vocational equipment worth over 15 million cedis to the Nerebehi Integrated Community Centre for Employable Skills (ICCES). The donation was in response to an appeal the management of the Centre made to the Trust.

Mr R.Y. Baah, Manager of the ICCES, who received the items expressed his gratitude to the Trust since the Centre lacked basic teaching and learning materials. He said with the little resources at its disposal, the Centre has been able to train more than 800 unemployed youth. Mr Baah called on other philanthropic individuals and organisations to come to the aid of the Centre.

Ukraine to Review Privatization of Firms

Deutsche Welle, Germany 26-Feb-2005

A firm of the son-in-law of former President Kuchma will be probed

Ukraine plans this year to review the privatization of some 20 major concerns that the government believes were sold off at unfairly low prices under the previous regime, the deputy prime minister said Saturday.

First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh said the authorities had narrowed down the list of enterprises concerned to around 20 and the government aimed to conclude the process by the end of the year.

"There are about 20 at this stage, not more. I hope that the main problems concerning privatization can be resolved by the end of this year," he told a small group of foreign journalists.

The announcement will come as a relief to foreign investors and local businessmen who were rattled earlier this month after Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko threatened to contest the sale of 3,000 privatized firms. President Viktor Yushchenko contradicted her, insisting in an interview with the AFP news agency that only a "few dozen" companies were affected, but the deputy prime minister's statement marks the first time a precise figure has been given.

The new reformist Ukrainian government alleges corrupt dealings between the former administration of President Leonid Kuchma and powerful business clans based mainly in the eastern industrial heartland during Kuchma's 10-year rule. In particular, it is determined to reverse privatizations that handed vast assets in the strategic mining and metals industries to a handful of well-connected oligarchs for bargain prices.

Firms to be resold

Yushchenko has said the firms in question will most likely be resold at auction to raise funds for the impoverished state budget unless the current owners agree to pay a much higher price. Last week a tribunal in Kiev on ruled that last year's privatization of the country's largest steel enterprise, Krivorizhstal, was illegal, a decision that must be upheld by the supreme court.

A consortium created by Viktor Pinchuk, Kuchma's son-in-law, and Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest person, bought a 93 percent stake in the Krivorizhstal plant last June for $800 million. The bid was successful despite offers of $1.2 billion by the Russian steel giant Severstal and $1.5 billion from the British-US consortium of LNM Group and United States Steel Corp.

Ukraine's Economy Minister Serhiy Terekhin said Friday another priority for re-privatization was the country's major Ukrrudprom iron ore production holding, which produces around 70 percent of iron ore in Ukraine. Interests linked to Akhmetov -- whose wealth is estimated at $3.5 billion -- control the holding of 10 companies in Ukrrudprom after most of its assets were purchased at closed tenders last year.

According to the economy minister, two other important concerns are on the list: the Nikopolsky plant, which has an 11.5-percent share of the world's ferroalloys market, and the giant Mikolayiv aluminum refinery. Kuchma's son-in-law, whose fortune at the end of last year was estimated at $2.5 billion dollars, holds a controlling stake in Nikopolsky.

RusAL, the biggest Russian aluminum group, in 2000 won a rather opaque tender to acquire Mikolayiv, the largest producer of alumina in Europe.

Scarred by the aluminium wars, Oleg the oligarch steels himself for a new battle

Independent, UK 27 February 2005

By Adrian Gatton and Brendan Malkin

He's gone from Siberia to Belgravia, but now Russia's second-richest man faces a $300m lawsuit over a joint venture that turned sour

Russia's second-richest man, Oleg Deripaska, is being sued for $300m (£156m) by Britain's billionaire Reuben brothers over a disputed aluminium trading venture, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

The long-running dispute will revive fading memories of Russia's bitterly fought "aluminium wars", at a time when Mr Deripaska, who is partially based in London, is seeking legitimacy in Britain and an eventual Stock Exchange listing for his giant RusAl aluminium corporation.

The claimant Trans-World Metals - a business formed by David and Simon Reuben and their former Russian business partner, Lev Chernoi - last week requested jurisdiction in a British Virgin Islands (BVI) court to sue Mr Deripaska and his associates for allegedly breaking a joint-venture agreement and illegally diverting assets. Trans-World's claim for lost profits, damages, interest and costs totals $300m.

The dispute dates back to an aluminium trading business venture formed in 1995 in the heady days of Russia's privatisation process. At that time the Reuben brothers, ex-scrap-metal traders who had their own meteoric rise, allegedly brought in the young Mr Deripaska as an agent to buy up shares in the privatisations of Russia's giant Bratsk and Sayansk smelters. But Mr Deripaska rapidly grew powerful in his own right and soon was strong enough to join a 50/50 partnership with Trans-World in an Irish-registered aluminium company Tradalco, which operated "tolling" companies trading at huge profits.

According to the claim, by January 1998 Mr Deripaska "wrongly repudiated" the joint venture with Trans-World - with immediate effect.

The claimants alleged that they subsequently discovered that Mr Deripaska and his associates had diverted assets illegally into "shadow" companies - Alucor Trading SA and Sayana Foil SA - that replicated the BVI companies already operating for Tradalco in the Bahamas. These "mirror" companies, set up without Trans-World's knowledge, had the same names but different registrations and bank accounts. According to the claim document, these companies were "used as part of an unlawful scheme wrongfully to divert joint venture assets".

Since 2000 the Reubens have extricated their business from Russia and now maintain a mere 1 per cent share in the Bratsk smelter. The brothers, said to be worth £2.2bn, instead turned their attentions to high-profile UK property acquisitions such as the Millbank Tower.

Mr Deripaska's lawyers maintain that Tradalco was a jointly owned company and not the outcome of a joint venture agreement. Trans-World admits that the alleged joint venture was agreed orally, but lawyers for Mr Deripaska point out that if there had been a joint-venture agreement, it would have been in writing.

Mr Deripaska's lawyer, Paul Hauser, denied that assets had been diverted, and claimed that Tradalco's assets - currently in provisional liquidation in Ireland - have been "fully accounted for" by liquidators PricewaterhouseCoopers. He claimed that Trans-World was unhappy with the outcome of the case in Ireland and launched another case in the BVI. "It is a case of forum shopping," said Mr Hauser.

If the case goes to a full hearing it could prove an uncomfortable ride for Mr Deripaska, given what it may reveal about his meteoric but turbulent rise to riches.

Like his close friend and ex-business partner Roman Abramovich, Mr Deripaska has sought strong British ties, and is thought to be seeking respectability in English society and a possible haven from Russia's political vicissitudes.

His Anglophile credentials are already good. Mr Deripaska is believed to "weekend" regularly in London, to improve his English. In 2003, the billionaire sponsored the lavish Art of Chess exhibition held at Somerset House, featuring beautiful Fabergé chess sets. His wife, Polina, a member of the Yeltsin clan, was educated at Millfield school in Somerset. Mr and Mrs Deripaska recently bought a £25m grade-I Regency house in Belgravia.

It's a long way from bleak Siberia, where the 36-year-old billionaire made his fortune in the 1990s in the bloody "aluminium wars" that resulted in dozens of deaths as rival business factions battled for control of Russia's prize assets. Mr Deripaska was the principal victor in that war, although his reputation was tarnished by the experience.

Alba takes up '100-day safe start-up challenge'

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain 27-Feb-2005

By SOMAN BABY

MANAMA: Alba embarks on a project to set a new world record for the fastest start-up of an Aluminium Reduction Line today.

The launch of the '100 Day Safe Start-up' Challenge is one of the most ambitious challenges witnessed to-date by the global aluminium industry, said chief executive officer Bruce Hall.

"Starting today, with the commissioning of the first pot, Alba is set to embark on the safe start-up of its new Reduction Line in just 100 days," he told a Press conference held at the Alba Line 5 Project site yesterday.

"Our goal is to break the current world record by over 80 days and set a new record for the fastest start-up of an Aluminium Reduction Line.

"This significant venture is set to bring Alba's $ 1.7 Billion Line 5 Expansion Project to its ultimate climax by establishing a reputation for the company as a world leader in the aluminium industry while further positioning the Kingdom of Bahrain in the limelight of the international arena."

With the start-up of the fifth potline in just 100 days, Alba can pride itself in having set a benchmark in global industrial excellence, said Mr Hall.

"This will be a grand finale for the Line 5 Expansion and an admirable accomplishment for the company and its employees who have been working long and hard to achieve this goal and are determined to realise it," commented Mr Hall.

"The Line 5 Operations Team in coordination with all of Alba's supporting units, will be required to energise an average of four pots a day to ensure that all 336 pots equally spread over the 1km long Reduction Line - currently the longest in the world - are fully operational within the 100-day timeframe."

Alba's decision to embark on the 100 day challenge was taken two years ago, following the start of the Line 5 Project construction.

During the last two years the entire Alba workforce has been working in unison to determine that everyone works towards the same goal and shares in the same vision of achieving the 100-day milestone with the highest safety and quality standards as is customary of a project of such magnitude, said Mr Hall.

"The project marks a historic milestone in Bahrain's aluminium industry and firmly establishes Alba as both a regional and global leader in its field," he continued.

"The creation of the fifth potline will expand the company's annual aluminium production by a further 307,000 tonnes per annum, making Alba the largest aluminium smelter in the world outside of Eastern Europe with a total output of 827,000 tonnes per annum.

"This landmark development has brought major added benefits to the Kingdom and its economy with the creation of over 4,000 jobs during construction and over 500 permanent jobs during operation."

Alba, which has been doubling its production every 10 years since its inception, exports 50 per cent of its products, of which 15 per cent go to other GCC countries and the remaining to the Far East, said deputy chief executive - plant operation Mahmood Daylami.

"This has been achieved due to the teamwork of all the staff, the majority of whom are Bahrainis," he added.

"Currently, we spend about BD2.5m a year on training, and we are proud of the achievements made by the national workforce."

This large-scale expansion has also created many lucrative opportunities for Bahrain-based companies and the local contractors, said deputy chief executive - commercial and services Ahmed Al Noaimi.

They have benefited from attractive budget allocations and exposure to work practices of international standards through Alba's and Bechtel's intensive safety measures and training schemes implemented throughout the Line 5 construction period, he added.

Alcoa's AWAC Completes 250,000 MT Alumina Expansion in Suriname

Business Wire (press release), CA February 28, 2005

PITTSBURGH--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 28, 2005--Alcoa (NYSE:AA) today announced that Suralco, owned by Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals - a global alliance between Alcoa and Alumina Ltd., with Alcoa holding 60 percent - has completed the 250,000 metric ton per year (mtpy) expansion of its alumina refinery in Paranam, Suriname six months ahead of schedule. The 250,000 mtpy expansion, completed at a total cost of approximately $65 million or approximately $260/ton, brings the facility's total capacity to approximately 2.2 million mtpy.

Suralco and an affiliate of BHP Billiton own 55% and 45%, respectively, of the Paranam facility.

"The expansion has gone well, and we've been ahead of schedule throughout the project, which wasn't slated to be finished mechanically until the third quarter of 2005," said Warren M. Pedersen, Suralco's managing director.

Alcoa's presence in Suriname extends back to 1916. The business, now known as Suriname Aluminum Company, L.L.C. (Suralco), originally focused on mining bauxite. In 1958, Suralco signed an agreement with the government of Suriname to develop the country's hydropower and bring the aluminum industry to Suriname. The company continues to explore opportunities to grow in the country.