More than 600 workers at America’s second-largest aluminum mill have begun the process of losing their jobs because Century Aluminum cannot afford the electric bill.
Layoffs are expected to finish later this month, according to the Hancock Clarion.
In a letter to employees in June, the company said it must “be able to purchase reliable, affordable electric power.”
But that’s not the current reality, the company said.
“The cost required to run our Hawesville, KY, facility has more than tripled the historical average in a very short period, given these circumstances, it is necessary to fully curtail operations for a period of approximately nine to twelve months at Hawesville until energy prices return to more normalized levels,” the company said.
Kenneth Calloway, Vice President of Human Resources, said the company wants to reopen the plant when it can.
“At this point in time, we are looking at full curtailment with the intent it will be a temporary curtailment of nine to 12 months until energy prices get back to a more normalized level,” Calloway said.
The shutdown took weeks to properly put molten metal into storage, knowing that restarting operations could take months. “For this reason, owners don’t halt operations unless they’ve exhausted all other options,” Bloomberg noted.
The mill was not alone. Bloomberg noted that at least two steel mills have begun suspending some operations, citing what it said was an industry executive it did not name.
In July, Alcoa announced it was stopping production on one of three lines at an Indiana plant due to “operational challenges.”
Katie Coleman, an attorney for Texas Association of Manufacturers, said taxes, electricity and labor are the three major issues facing all manufacturers “but right now, electricity is an even larger factor than normal,” Bloomberg reported.
Century is keeping open the plant in Iceland while shuttering the Kentucky one.
“There is plenty of demand for aluminum, there’s strong demand for aluminum in the United States,” Century’s Calloway said. “That’s not the issue at all; it’s the cost to produce the aluminum.”
Calloway said the company would like to bring back the 628 people losing their jobs.
“We would hope to attract those employees back in the future,” he said. “That’s what we want. It will really be dependent upon the individual employee.”
Michael Harris of Unified Energy Services LLC, which buys fuel for industrial customers, said companies are resorting to credit to buy the power they need.
“That can be devastating for a corporation,’’ he said.
The Industrial Energy Consumers of America wants the Biden administration to limit the amount of gas American energy suppliers send overseas for fear that shortages will begin here in the U.S.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.