This Morning in Metals: Alcoa announces restart of aluminum smelter idled since 2015

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This morning in metals news: Alcoa said it plans to restart its Alumar aluminum smelter in Brazil; meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration forecasts hydropower generation will fall by 14% this year; and, lastly, European automakers are looking to bypass China in their rare earths supply chains.

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Alcoa to restart Alumar smelter

Alcoa logo

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Alcoa this week announced plans to restart its Alumar aluminum smelter in Brazil.

The smelter has been fully curtailed since 2015. The facility has annual capacity of 268,000 metric tons.

“The process to restart the idle capacity will begin immediately,” Alcoa said. “The first molten metal is expected in the second quarter of 2022, and the full 268,000 mtpy of capacity is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2022. By 2024, the Alumar smelter will be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.”

Hydropower hit by drought

Speaking of renewable energy, the EIA forecasts hydropower generation to decline by 14% this year.

“Extreme and exceptional drought conditions have been affecting much of the western United States, especially California and states in the Pacific Northwest, which are home to the majority of U.S. hydropower capacity,” the EIA said.

European automakers aim to source rare earths outside of China

As we have noted continually in the Rare Earths MMI series, China controls an overwhelming majority of rare earths mining and processing.

As such, Europe and the U.S., in particular, have ramped up their efforts toward alternative sources of rare earths, which are used in a wide variety of high-tech capacities.

In that vein, European automakers are in discussions with Australia’s Arafura Resources about sourcing rare earths used in electric vehicles, Bloomberg reported.

Arafura is developing the Nolans project at a price tag of A$1 billion. Furthermore, the firm says the project will be able to produce 5-10% of the world’s magnet rare earths supply.

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