Though guarded, a sense of optimism has begun to return to Goose Creek, South Carolina, as production is slowly but surely coming back online at Century Aluminum’s Mount Holly plant.
According to local reports, Century has begun to rehire a portion of those laid off from the plant two years ago as well. Though still running at half capacity, Century says the Trump aluminium tariffs have given it breathing room to begin restarting a portion of the currently closed capacity.
“Bottom line, the tariffs are having their intended effect and that’s to allow the U.S. industry to reinvest for long-term competitiveness,” opined Century’s president and CEO Mike Bless.
Century says it experienced a 21-percent jump in sales last month, with a rise of up to 60 percent expected for the full year beyond last year’s totals. All thanks to the Trump tariffs, Bless points out.
Once spoken of in terms of imminent closure, the Mount Holly plant is now apparently not in danger of further closures. Bless told investors in a conference call that the plant will continue to operate at current levels at least through the end of next year as it negotiates with Santee Cooper for a more favorable power deal.
At present the plant is bound by contract to buy a portion of its energy needs from Santee Cooper. However, Century hopes to soon obtain an agreement allowing it to shop the open market for power. However, Santee Cooper has been obdurate to date, insisting that such a deal would translate to its other customers paying to transmit Century’s power. Century continues to reject that contention.
Additionally, Century is restarting a trio of idled potlines at its Hawesville plant that it idled two years ago. The lines are slated to be fully operational next year after a US$75 million renovation.
“This industry absolutely can be competitive over the long term,” asserted Bless.