Taoiseach meets Aughinish management over US sanctions

Askeaton palnt has 450 employees

Aughinish is the largest alumina refinery in Europe, located near Askeaton, on the shores of the Shannon estuary.

Aughinish is the largest alumina refinery in Europe, located near Askeaton, on the shores of the Shannon estuary.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a private meeting with management of the Russian-owned alumina producing plant in Askeaton Co Limerick, as “concern” mounted over the plant’s continued operations, and the future of its 450 workforce.

Aughinish is the largest alumina refinery in Europe, located near Askeaton, on the shores of the Shannon estuary.

Owned by Rusal, the Limerick facility is facing an uncertain future, after severe trade sanctions were imposed by the US Treasury Department on Rusal’s owner Oleg Deripaska, on April 6.

Mr Varadkar confirmed he met with Aughinish management representatives Sean Garland and Damien Clancy in Limerick this Friday.

Mr Varadkar said: “I’m aware of the situation. I spoke to Sean Garland on the phone last week and I met him this morning. The government are very very much aware of the risks, and we’ll do everything we can to assist the company, and to ensure that it can continue to operate as normal.”

“Obviously there is a concern that the US sanctions imposed on Russia could have an impact on Rusal. Everyone, including the IDA, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, are very aware of the situation, and, the government will do everything we can to protect the investment (at Aughinish) and protect the jobs there,” the Taoiseach said.

“Certainly, we are not going to be copying the US in terms of imposing our own sanctions,” he added.

Limerick Fianna Fáil TD, Niall Collins, called on the government to “support the Aughinish plant and its workers and ensure the sanctions don’t impact negatively on Aughinish.”

“We wouldn’t want to see the situation escalate,” he warned.

The sanctions effectively ban US companies or persons from dealing with Rusal.

Currently the sanctions do not directly impact the plant, however this could change.

Mr Deripaska, who has been dogged by reports of being a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was targeted along with six other oligarchs in US President Donald Trump’s sanctions hit list.

Rusal’s shares have nosedived since the sanctions were imposed last week. Investors jumped ship last Monday resulting in Rusal shedding half its value on the Hong Kong stock market.

On April 12th, Moody’s and Fitch withdrew Rusal’s credit ratings “for its own business reasons”, a statement on Rusal’s website read.

It added: “Fitch has withdrawn the ratings due to the sanction restrictions of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury of the United States of America (OFAC).”

Two reliable sources confirmed that, management representatives of Aughinish Alumina, including managing director Damien Clancy, traveled to Rusal’s HQ in Russia in recent days to assess any potential impact on Aughinish.

According to reports last year staff costs at Aughinish increased slightly to $50.35 million (€41 million) with Limerick Alumina Refining Ltd posting a pre-tax loss of $40.5 million as revenues slumped 24 per cent to $520m due to a drop in the price of alumina worldwide.

The majority of bauxite processed at Aughinish is imported from Guinea in west Africa, with the remainder of the rock sourced from Brazil.

The finished product, alumina, is exported for further processing through smelting.

Aughinish Alumina did not respond to requests for an interview with management.