Uche Usim, Abuja
The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) at the weekend said the $3.2 billion Aluminium Smelting Company of Nigeria (ALSCON), located at Ikot Ibasi, Akwa Ibom State was set to recommence operations as the hitherto existing gas supply challenge that rocked the establishment had been largely resolved by the bureau and other relevant stakeholders.
The Director-General of the BPE, Alex Okoh, who made the disclosure in a statement said the bureau, as a first step, had requested the Federal government to consider and approve the categorisation of ALSCON under a strategic industry to enable it buy gas at a concessionary price as opposed to the commercial price to enable the core investor in the company- DHL/RUSAL recommence production and operate profitably.
He recalled that following the signing of Addendum No.2 to the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) on January 17, 2018, at the Ministry of Mines & Steel Development (MMSD), DHL/RUSAL submitted a road map detailing issues that require urgent resolution prior to the commencement of operations which include but not limited to the issue of gas price and supply.
“Upon the resolution of the gas price and supply issues, a new agreement will be signed in line with current realities. It will also take into consideration the trend internationally to allow ALSCON remain competitive in the global aluminium products market,” he stated.
He assured that once the gas issue is fully resolved and the agreement signed, President Muhammadu Buhari would in the next few weeks commission the plant to signal the recommencement of operations by ALSCON.
The facility, with potential to offer 1,500 direct jobs and space to offer over 10, 000 indirect employment, was to save the country over $3b of aluminium ingots and others through import by the downstream sector annually.
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It is estimated that with the crisis in ALSCON, it costs the country and key downstream players like First Aluminium, Alumaco, and others, well over $6b annually through to import ingots for local production of aluminium products.
The company came into being as a result of the successful execution of an agreement in 1989 between the Federal government, FEEROSTAAL AG, Essen, Essenbau Essen Gmbh and Reynold International Inc, Richmond (USA), all of whom did their bid in building and operation of an integrated aluminium smelter outfit-ALSCON.
The plant was designed to produce 187 tones per year (t/y), with capacities to process about 375, 000 t/yr of alumina and 80, 000 t/yr of coke, 20. 150 t/yr of pitch, and 193, 000 t/yr of aluminium as billets, ingots or slabs, with 85 per cent export. Built by FEEROSTAAL AG, the outfit was also intended to enhance Nigeria’s technological breakthrough.