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Southwire prepared if Century smelter closes

Keywords: Tags  Southwire, Century Aluminum, Big Rivers Electric, billet, ingot, sow, rod, wire smelter


CHICAGO — Southwire Co. hopes Century Aluminum Co. and power supplier Big Rivers Electric Corp. can reach a power deal that would keep Century’s smelter in Hawesville, Ky., open and operational, but the company is preparing "to move forward with business regardless of the outcome," a company spokesman said.

The Carrollton, Ga.-based producer of wire and cable for the electrical transmission industry will continue to make aluminum rod from its own Hawesville operations even if the Monterey, Calif.-based aluminum producer, which supplies Southwire with molten aluminum, closes its smelter this summer.

Century plans to idle its Hawesville smelter Aug. 20 and could terminate its supply contract with Southwire, its largest customer, unless it can secure a better power deal with Big Rivers (amm.com, April 17).

"We would rather see the two sides work an agreement out because it’s in our best interest and everyone’s best interest," the Southwire spokesman said, noting that its customers wouldn’t be affected by a closure at Century’s Hawesville smelter.

"There is a process that allows you to make (rod) without molten aluminum, and we have invested in and installed that equipment (in Hawesville)," he said, declining to specify how much the company has invested in the alternative process, which involves taking aluminum ingot, billet or sow and remelting it in a reheat furnace.

The molten aluminum would then be used by one of the company’s three continuous rod mills, the spokesman said. The rod would then be drawn into wire.

The investment has taken place over roughly the past year and a half as Southwire watched negotiations between Century and Henderson, Ky.-based Big Rivers Electric reach an impasse, the spokesman said.

However, making rod from molten aluminum remains the process "that makes the most sense from a business standpoint," he acknowledged.

"We can and will continue to make rod regardless of the outcome," he said. "The (Hawesville) plant is an integral part of our operations because all of Southwire rod that we produce wire from across North America comes from there."

Century has said the Hawesville smelter is not viable without a better power deal (amm.com, Feb. 22). Big Rivers Electric has countered that it can’t sell electricity for less than the cost of production.


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