Kaiser Aluminum Corp. has begun steps to restart two aluminum potlines that have been idle since early 1993 because of a temporary electricity shortage and market conditions.
The potlines at Kaiser’s Mead plant north of Spokane are being restarted because company officials expect a prolonged recovery for the global aluminum market, said Bob Irelan, Kaiser’s vice president for public relations.
“There has been a decline in prices recently, but we believe the fundamentals are good and will continue to be good into next year,” Irelan said Thursday.
Two of the Mead plant’s eight potlines were shut down in early 1993, when electricity shortages in the Pacific Northwest forced the Bonneville Power Administration to cut off 25 percent of the power it supplied to aluminum companies in the region.
The federal power-marketing agency restored full power to the smelters late last year, and Kaiser has been among the last of the region’s aluminum producers to return to full production.
The two Mead potlines have remained down in part due to a worldwide glut of aluminum that has driven down prices.
Kaiser had also reduced production at its Tacoma plant, but the facility has since been returned to full capacity, Irelan said.
The company has hired 114 Mead workers in recent months and trained them to work the potlines that are being restarted, Irelan said. The plant is expected to be back at full capacity early next year.
Each potline at Mead is capable of producing 25,000 metric tons of aluminum annually.