Alcoa pointed a finger toward the plummeting price of aluminum when it announced Thursday that it will permanently close its Warrick County smelting operations, about two hours southwest of Louisville.
The aluminum giant launched a yearlong review of its smelting and refining operations in March, curtailing or closing operations in New York, Texas, Washington, Brazil and now southern Indiana.
“Although our employees have worked diligently through these challenging market conditions, the aluminum smelter at Warrick Operations is no longer competitive,” John Martin, the company’s vice president of U.S. smelting operations, said.
Martin noted that the price of aluminum has dropped about 30% in the last year, and said the company’s “focus now is on our employees.” The price drop for the raw material alumina, about 40% during the same stretch, was also cited as a major factor.
Tough Week for Northeast Ohio Steel
Republic Steel and United States Steel also announced various cuts this week. Republic Steel said it will be idling its rolling mill operations at its steel mill in Lorain, Ohio, about 30 miles west of Cleveland. U.S. Steel said its Lorain plant will be working just two weeks through the end of March.
“We hope that we can resume the Lorain operations in the near future,” Republic Steel president and CEO Jaime Vigil told The Morning Journal. “We are positioned for growth and will be ready to provide capacity once the market turns around.”
The workforces at both of the Lorain plants have shrunk drastically during the last two years. Republic Steel started 2014 with between 600 and 650 workers at that plant, and now has 314. U.S. Steel counted more than 1,300 just 12 months ago and now counts 637, with just 337 working this week.