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HAWESVILLE, Ky. - Century Aluminum is closing one of five potlines at its Hawesville smelter, idling 120 workers amid a dramatic decline in aluminum prices.
The production halt was to begin immediately, the company said Tuesday, and will be completed over several days. The move will reduce production by up to 4,370 tons of aluminum a month. The Hawesville smelter has produced up to 250,000 tons each year.
Company officials said the production cuts are needed to reduce losses and conserve cash.
"This difficult action is needed to reduce the significant cash losses we are experiencing at the currently depressed global price for aluminum," said Hawesville Vice President and Plant Manager Matt Powell. "Since July of last year, aluminum prices have experienced an unprecedented decline of more than 55 percent. Conserving cash now is necessary for long term sustainability - the shutdown is a short-term action to get us through this economic crisis. We believe that aluminum markets will ultimately strengthen, allowing us to profitably operate the facility for the long term."
According to a story in this week's Hancock Clarion, the shutdown of the potline, the newest at the smelter, is considered permanent.
Company officials said aluminum prices would need a strong and lasting rally before the line might reopen.
Century closed its Ravenswood, W.Va., smelter last month and eliminated several salaried positions at the Hawesville facility earlier this year.
A special section published by The News last summer about local industries reported that Century employed more than 700 people.
Aleris International Inc. has sought bankruptcy protection. It Aleris operates a plant near Lewisport, Ky., that employs approximately 800 people. The company has also laid off employees.