A ceremonial pour of molten aluminum at Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kitimat smelter marks a major milestone for the $4.8 billion modernization project in the British Columbia community.
Rio Tinto Alcan’s plant manager Gaby Poirier says the three-year project created about 3,600 construction jobs and the upgrade cuts emissions in half and will increase aluminum production by 48 per cent to 420,000 tonnes a year.
He says four generations of Kitimat families have worked at the smelter since 1954 when the north coast community was carved out of the wilderness to make room for a new industry and North America’s first planned city.
Poirier says the modernized smelter will reach full production early next year.
Kitimat is in the midst of an industrial boom with the development of proposed liquefied natural gas export plants and the completion of the Rio Tinto upgrade after it hit the economic doldrums less than a decade ago.
Environmental groups says the Rio Tinto upgrade increases threats to human health in the Kitimat air shed with spikes in levels of harmful sulphur dioxide emissions.