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Kaiser gets out of aluminum smelting business

Kaiser Aluminum Corp. will cease smelting aluminum later this year, breaking with its industrial history as one of world’s premier metal makers.

The company announced this week that it will not resume production at its 49 percent-owned Anglesey smelter in Wales after a fire curtailed operations there. The smelter’s power contract expires in September and isn’t expected to be renewed. The majority owner of the smelter is Rio Tinto Group.

Kaiser made aluminum for more than 50 years at its Mead smelter in north Spokane, a smelter in Tacoma, and others around the world. The smelters were sold as part of the company’s lengthy bankruptcy reorganization several years ago.

The Trentwood rolling mill remains the centerpiece of Kaiser’s business operations, employing hundreds of people who produce aluminum sheet and plate for use in airplanes, auto parts, machinery and construction goods.

On Thursday evening Kaiser announced that it expects to report a financial loss for fiscal 2008 because of $185 million in pretax charges related to slumping metals prices, the Anglesey curtailment, the closure of it plant in Tulsa, Okla., and cuts at its Bellwood, Va., factory.

The numbers will be posted on Feb. 17.

The global recession and resulting manufacturing cutbacks are hitting aluminum producers hard.

Alcoa Inc. and others have shut smelters and shelved new projects as aluminum prices have tumbled 41 percent during the past year.

Alcoa announced plans earlier this month to cut 106 jobs at its two Washington smelters in Wenatchee and Ferndale.

Contact John Stucke at (509) 459-5419 or