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Century completes purchase of Ky. smelter

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Century Aluminum Co. announced Monday that it has completed its acquisition of "substantially all of the assets" of the Sebree aluminum smelter in Henderson County, Ky.

The Sebree smelter, bought for $61 million from Rio Tinto Alcan, employs more than 500 people and has a capacity to produce 205,000 metric tons of primary aluminum annually.

"We are really happy to welcome the men and women of Sebree to Century," Century President and CEO Michael Bless said Monday.

"With the changes occurring in U.S. energy markets, we believe Sebree, along with our existing smelter at Hawesville, will be competitive in the global market.

"We see a great opportunity for these facilities, which are located about 60 miles apart, to work together and share best practices in pursuit of safety and operational excellence."

Mike Dildine, Century Aluminum's media spokesman, told the Gazette on Monday that the final acquisition of the Sebree smelter will not reverse company plans to reopen its smelter in Ravenswood.

"Our acquisition of the Sebree smelter really has no impact on our intentions and our objectives in restarting Ravenswood. Absolutely, it is still a priority for us.

"There are a number of things that have to come together. We are talking with energy companies. Unfortunately, we can't give a timeline on [when Century will reopen]," he said. "But our objective of restarting the Ravenswood smelter is absolutely unchanged."

Randy Moore, subdistrict director for the United Steelworkers in West Virginia, the union representing aluminum workers in Ravenswood, said his union has no immediate comment about the Sebree sale being finalized.

"Right now, we think it is best to wait and see what happens," Moore said.

Late last month, Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle told the Gazette that "with the Constellium aluminum plant operating, I am hopeful the other half with Century will get going. The economic reality is that I think we are waiting for the price of aluminum to go back up. It is not anywhere near what it needs to be."

When Century Aluminum closed its Jackson County smelter on Feb. 15, 2009, it laid off more than 650 workers.

Despite the efforts of local, state and federal politicians, and attempts to give Century incentives to restart the plant, it remains closed.

In an effort to get Century to restart its Ravenswood operations, West Virginia legislators gave the company a tax credit worth up to $20 million a year.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission ruled that Century could get lower electricity rates from Appalachian Power, but not if the risk associated with lower rates was borne by other APCO customers. Century officials said the PSC deal wasn't good enough to reopen the plant.

Century Aluminum produces aluminum in the United States and Iceland. Century recently moved its corporate headquarters from Monterey, Calif., to Chicago.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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