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Alcoa, Century continue Mt. Holly power talks

Keywords: Tags  Alcoa, Century Aluminum, Santee Cooper, London Metal Exchange, LME, Mount Holly, Suzy Waite

NEW YORK — Alcoa Inc. and Century Aluminum Co. continue to meet with power provider Santee Cooper in an effort to hash out a new power contract for the joint-venture aluminum smelter in Mount Holly, S.C.

"We’re continuing to work with Alcoa (and Century), certainly (as often) as necessary to keep things moving," a Santee Cooper spokeswoman told AMM. "They are a valued member of the corporate community and we are working with them on this issue."

She declined to comment further on negotiations or offer a timeline for when talks could conclude.

The existing power deal with Santee Cooper—South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility—isn’t due to expire until 2015, but the parties have until June to either re-sign the existing agreement or seek a better deal (AMM, Sept. 13).

On Century’s most recent earnings conference call in late April, Michael Bless, president and chief executive officer, said that all parties had been discussing a short-term amendment to the power contract and hope to conclude talks by the time the Monterey, Calif.-based company releases its second-quarter results in July (AMM, April 26).

Under the terms of the existing agreement, the power to the plant is priced at rates fixed under currently published schedules. Mount Holly has the right to terminate the power contract early without penalty if London Metal Exchange aluminum prices drop below certain negotiated levels (AMM, Sept. 13.)

LME three-month aluminum closed Tuesday at $2,063 per tonne, down 12.2 percent from a year-to-date high of $2,349 per tonne on Feb. 28 and well under the $2,200-per-tonne break-even point of most U.S. aluminum smelters.

"(Producers) with smelters in the third quartile (like Mount Holly) are relentlessly pursuing lower costs. They have to," an analyst told AMM. "It’s key to success when you make any commodity."

A Century spokeswoman confirmed the power agreement terms are still in place, but declined to comment further. Alcoa declined to comment.

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