Aluminum giant Alcoa announced Monday that it will cut production at three European plants, sparing the 30-year-old Berkeley County plant that's locked in power-cost negotiations with state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
The three affected smelting operations are in Italy and Spain. Last week, Alcoa said it would close a smelter in Tennessee and close two of six potlines at a Texas plant. The plant in Italy will be shut down while two in Spain will undergo partial and temporary curtailments.
"In today's rapidly changing global economy, it is imperative to respond quickly to maintain competitiveness," said Chris Ayers, Alcoa executive vice president and president of Alcoa Global Primary Products in a release. "This decision was made after thorough analysis of all the possible alternatives. We are committed to working to find solutions that will minimize the impact on these communities and our workers there."
The company said it is cutting 12 percent, or 531,000 metric tons, of the its global smelting capacity because of an uncompetitive energy position coupled with rising raw material costs and falling aluminum prices.
Aluminum prices have fallen more than 27 percent from their peak in 2011.
The Mount Holly plant near Goose Creek is in talks with Santee Cooper for a better long-term power rate. It must let the utility know by June if it intends to renew its contract, which expires in 2015, and has indicated it will close if it does not secure a lower power rate.
"The fact remains that Mt. Holly has an uncompetitive power rate that desperately needs to be fixed," local plant manager Mike Rousseau said. "In order to remain competitive as a business, we must quickly secure a long-term competitive power contract."
Read more in Tuesday's editions of The Post and Courier.