Aluminum mills that produce 20% of US supply can’t pay their electricity bills

More than 600 workers at America’s second-largest aluminum plant have begun the process of losing their jobs because Century Aluminum can’t afford to pay their electricity bills.

According to Hancock Clarion, the layoffs are expected to end by the end of this month.

In a letter to employees in June, the company said they must “be able to afford affordable, reliable electricity.”

But that is not the current reality, the company said.

“The cost required to operate our Hawesville, KY, facility has more than tripled the historical average in a very short time, given these circumstances it was necessary to cut operations completely. for a period of approximately nine to twelve months in Hawesville until energy prices return to more normalized levels,” the company said.

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Kenneth Calloway, Vice President of Human Resources, said the company wants to reopen the factory when possible.

“At this point, we are looking at a full cut with the intent that it will be a temporary cut of 9 to 12 months until energy prices return to more normal levels,” Calloway said.

The outage took weeks to put the molten metal into storage properly, knowing that restarting operations could take months. For this reason, owners do not pause operations unless they have run out of other options.

The factory is not alone. Bloomberg notes that at least two steel mills have begun suspending some operations, citing that they said they did not name a single industry operator.

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In July, Alcoa announced it was shutting down production on one of its three lines at its Indiana plant due to “operational challenges.”

Katie Coleman, an attorney for the Texas Manufacturers Association, said taxes, electricity and labor are the three main issues faced by all manufacturers “but for now, electricity is an even bigger factor.” larger than usual,” Bloomberg reported.

Century is continuing to open its factory in Iceland while closing its factory in Kentucky.

“There’s a lot of demand for aluminum, there’s a lot of demand for aluminum in the United States,” said Century’s Calloway. “That’s not the problem at all; that’s the cost to produce aluminum. “

Calloway said the company wants to bring back 628 people who lost their jobs.

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“We hope to get those employees back in the future,” he said. “That’s what we want. It will really depend on the individual employee. “

Michael Harris of Unified Energy Services LLC, which buys fuel for industrial customers, said companies are using credit to buy the electricity they need.

“That can hurt a company,” he said.

US industrial energy consumers want the Biden administration to limit the amount of gas that US energy suppliers send abroad over fears that shortages will start here in the US.

This article originally appeared in Western Magazine.

We are committed to honesty and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Mike Fahey

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