Embattled Russian aluminium producer UC Rusal is weighing restarting an aluminium smelter in Nigeria that has been idle for a decade.
Last week Nigeria’s vice president Kashim Shettima discussed the possibility with Rusal brass at the Russia-Africa meeting in St. Petersburg. The Nigerian government is already working on restoring production at the Alscon aluminium smelter.
In a statement, Vice President Shettima elaborated on the government’s motives for restarting the smelter.
“The sooner we get this plant back to production, the better for everyone. We need to walk the talk; the Nigerian people deserve better.”
The Alscon aluminium smelter was shuttered in early 2013 due to low aluminium prices and an inconsistent natural gas supply. The plant smelted 22 thousand metric tons of primary aluminium the year prior to closing, which is only 11 percent of its nameplate capacity.
Rusal, who owns 85 percent of the aluminium smelter, acknowledged that discussions were underway but declined to comment further. The Nigerian government owns the remainder of the Alscon aluminium smelter.
Due to its Russian origins, Rusal has been experiencing steadily more resistance to its business operations around the globe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year has made aluminium products sourced from Rusal’s smelters undesirable in several Western countries.
Nigerian aluminium production has followed the general decline experienced across the African continent. Aluminium smelters in Nigeria combined to produce 1.742 million metric tons in 2010, dropping to 1.590 million metric tons in 2021 after peaking at 1,812 million metric tons in 2013.
Nigeria exports a significant share of the aluminium smelted within its borders. In 2021, the country’s aluminium smelters exported US$188.96 million in aluminium.