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FerroAtlántica to build silicon plant in Quebec

Feb 04, 2014 | 01:57 PM | Michael Cowden

Tags  FerroAtlántica, Pedro Larrea, Villar Mir Group, Pauline Marois, silicon metal, new capacity, quartz, Mississippi Silicon Rima Industrial

CHICAGO — A new Grupo FerroAtlántica SA silicon metal plant in Quebec could include six furnaces with a total capacity of up to 100,000 tonnes per year, market sources told AMM.

Shawinigan is the front-runner for what would be a large silicon metal operation, two sources familiar with the project said, noting that the site of an idled Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. smelter offers good access to power.

The Montreal-based aluminum producer had been looking to sell its smelter and casthouse in Shawinigan, about half way between Montreal and Quebec City (, Aug. 20). FerroAtlántica expressed an interest in acquiring the smelter last fall, market sources said, adding that the building housing the now-idled smelter could be used for a silicon metal plant after reduction cells for making aluminum are removed.

A Rio Tinto spokesman had no comment on FerroAtlántica’s possible interest in the site, and FerroAtlántica did not respond to a request for comment Feb. 4.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois—who announced last month in Davos, Switzerland, that the plant would be in Quebec—is expected to be in Shawinigan Feb. 6 to make an announcement, perhaps about FerroAtlántica locating in the city, sources said. Shawinigan is competing with the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec for the project, they added.

Marois’ office was not available for comment.

FerroAtlántica is an important source of imported silicon in the United States, market sources said, and an operation in Canada, expected to begin production in late 2016, would make the company a significant domestic player in North America.

The development also could represent a setback for New York-based Globe Specialty Metals Inc., market sources said. Globe is currently the only domestic producer of silicon metal in the region, but that status is being challenged, they added.

In the United States, Mississippi Silicon—a partnership between the Vicintin family, which owns Bocaiúva, Brazil-based Rima Industrial SA, and Clean Tech I LLC, a U.S. investment group whose members include steel industry veteran John Correnti—plans to spend $200 million to build a 36,000-tonne-per-year silicon metal plant in Burnsville, Miss. (, Jan. 2). Groundbreaking took place mid-January and production is expected to begin as soon as 2015, market sources said.

Globe, which also owns Quebec Silicon LP, pushed Chinese imports out of the market with a trade petition (, Nov. 19), but fending off competition from Canada could prove more difficult, market sources said.

Some consumer sources said they welcomed the prospect of more choice in domestic suppliers, while others said it remained to be seen whether either project would be completed and that, in any case, neither would be a factor in the market until at least 2015.

FerroAtlántica plans to spend $375 million to build a new silicon metal plant in Quebec. The Madrid-based silicon producer, owned by Spain’s Villar Mir Group, chose Quebec in part because of its abundant and potentially cheap power, Marois said in a release from Investissement Quebec, a provincial development corporation. "Our large surpluses and the possibility of setting lower rates were decisive factors in the company’s decision," she said.

The project also could benefit from a vertically integrated production chain in the province, including waste wood and possible new quartz mines in Quebec, Investissement Quebec said.

"We concluded that Québec had all the necessary ingredients for the construction of a competitive plant," FerroAtlántica president and chief executive officer Pedro Larrea said in a statement. "We visited and considered several interesting sites, and we should be confirming our final choice in the coming months."

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