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Aluminum Plant gets One-Month Reprieve

by K.J. Hascall
Daily Inter Lake, July 26, 2009

The Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. has been given another reprieve: The facility will remain open at least until Aug. 31.

Rising aluminum prices -- up 10 cents to 82 cents a pound -- are a major contributing factor, as well as an electricity deal with the Bonneville Power Administration that runs through Sept. 30.

"The reason we are able to stay open one more month is we found some raw materials and the price of aluminum went up," CFAC spokesman Haley Beaudry said.

The aluminum plant had been scheduled to shut down operations on Tuesday. That would have put 86 people out of work.

Beaudry said more raw materials for creating aluminum, primarily bauxite, have been made available because so many other competing aluminum plants have drastically cut back on production.

Dave Toavs, president of the Aluminum Workers Trades Council, said he's optimistic about the extension.

"Anytime you're open, that's good," said Toavs, who works in the garage at CFAC. "If things pick up, like Plum Creek or Semitool, things will keep going. We're hoping [CFAC] stays open. The mood is hopeful. Morale's good. We're pitching in everything we can to keep it going."

Beaudry said there is no indication whether or not CFAC's closing date will be pushed back again.

Agreements with the Bonneville Power Administration have extended the plant's operations twice, to the end of June and then to the end of July.

The plant's power contract with Bonneville wasn't supposed to end until Sept. 30, 2011, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ended the contract on Dec. 1, 2008 after a lawsuit against Bonneville by several western cooperatives claimed the company's rates are too high.

Beaudry said CFAC officials continue to negotiate with the power agency.

K.J. Hascall
Aluminum Plant gets One-Month Reprieve
Daily Inter Lake, July 26, 2009

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