BHP Billiton to start closing Richards Bay smelter on Tuesday

20th March 2008 By: Christy van der Merwe

Diversified resources miner BHP Billiton on Thursday confirmed that the ramp-down process and eventual closure of two of its potlines at the Bayside aluminium smelter would begin on March 25, 2008 and would take about two months to complete.

The company said that after consultations with employees and their representatives, it confirmed that there were no feasible alternative proposals to the closure of the potlines at its smelter in Richards Bay, South Africa.

In addition to the closure of Bayside B and C potlines, the Hillside and Mozal smelters will continue to operate at reduced operating levels to comply with the 10% mandatory overall power demand reduction.

“Total annual production loss will be just over 120 000 t across all three smelters (100% basis) including approximately 92 000 t from Bayside (due to the closure of B and C potlines),” BHP said in a statement.

This decision came as a result of the inability of the South African electricity utility, Eskom, to supply sufficient power to meet demand, BHP Billiton indicated.

BHP Billiton has, on instruction from Eskom, reduced its power consumption by 10% across the company's three smelters in southern Africa. However, this operating methodology was viewed as unsustainable and the company undertook an assessment of options to deal more effectively with a longer-term reduction in power.

“Consultations with employees and their representatives would continue regarding efforts to minimise the impact of this process on our people,” the company added.