CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Century Aluminum, which has said for many months that it wants to reopen its Jackson County plant, is making moves -- but not in West Virginia.
On Monday, Century announced it was acquiring the Sebree aluminum smelter in Henderson County, Ky., for $61 million. Rio Tinto Alcan, the previous owner, employed more than 500 people there to produce 205,000 metric tons of aluminum a year.
"As part of the transaction, RTA will retain all historical environmental liabilities of the Sebree smelter and has agreed to fully fund the pension plan being assumed by Century's subsidiary at closing," the company announcement added.
Century also operates an aluminum smelter at nearby Hawesville, in Hancock County, Ky., which employs 650 people.
Meanwhile, Century Aluminum Co.'s smelting plant in Ravenswood remains shuttered. Century closed the plant, which originally opened in 1957, in February 2009, laying off 651 employees.
Michael Bless, president and CEO of Monterey, Calif.-based Century Aluminum, recently said it is a "priority" for the company to reopen its Ravenswood facility.
In October, as part of an incentive package to get Century to reopen its Ravenswood plant, West Virginia lawmakers and the state Public Service Commission agreed to let Century pay a lower rate for its electricity than other power customers.
Century officials rejected that deal, saying it wasn't beneficial enough, but said they still wanted to work out a deal suitable for everyone.
Jeri Matheney, communications director for Appalachian Power, said on Monday, "The ball is in their court. We have met with them and tossed around ideas and different solutions.
"It is definitely very exploratory, and right now, it is in their hands to determine what the next step is they want to take."
Matheney said Appalachian Power already has a "special contract" with Century.
"We negotiate with them on a specific contract. They don't pay the 9.7 cents per kilowatt-hour that a residential customer would pay," she said. "We are ready and willing to work with them. We want them back as a customer."