For a province needing a boost of confidence on the economic front, there was big news out of Kitimat this week.
“Rio Tinto gives green light to $3.3-billion smelter upgrade,” head-lined The Vancouver Sun. “Rio Tinto digs deep for Kitimat with eye on future payoff,” reported the Globe and Mail.
“Full speed ahead for aluminum smelter project,” said the Financial Post. “Rio Tinto pumps billions more into Kitimat modernization,” wrote the Province.
Aluminum prices shaky. Flagging demand in Europe. The U.S. still a big question mark. Rio Tinto selling off billions of dollars worth of assets else-where in the world.
But against that depressing back-drop came word Thursday that the company was dedicating itself to a full-scale revitalization of the almost 60-year-old Alcan smelter in Kitimat. Some 2,500 jobs in the construction phase. A secure future for a further 1,000 in the long term. A 50-year lease on life for aluminum production in B.C., once the cleaner, more efficient smelter is up and running in 2014.
“Great for our community,” said Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan. “We’ve waited a long time for the announcement.”
I’ll say. As a look back over the files would confirm, the project has been in and out of doubt for two decades, thanks to a combination of legal and regulatory battles, compounded by market uncertainties.