By Pádraig Hoare
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must contact President Donald Trump directly in relation to 650 jobs in Limerick that are threatened by the US sanctions on Russian firm Rusal, a TD has said.
Some 450 jobs and 200 agency positions in Limerick are under threat because Aughinish Alumina near Askeaton is owned by Russian firm Rusal, which has been targeted by the US.
The Limerick site is the largest alumina refinery in Europe but US sanctions have had a severe impact on its owner, with shares being routed in recent days. Rusal shares rose more than 8% in Hong Kong, paring back some of the losses that more than halved its value over the past week.
The sanctions have sent the entire aluminium industry scrambling to restore supply chains. Rusal’s refining operations, which stretch from Aughinish to operations in Jamaica, are a vital cog in a global interlocking supply chain that’s now been thrown into chaos.
Aluminium surged to a six-year high as the impact of US sanctions against Rusal continued to reverberate through the global market more than a week after they were announced, with buyers rushing to secure supplies amid forecasts that the price may hit $3,000 a metric ton.
The metal is used to make everything from cans and cars to airplanes and Aughinish is seen as one of Rusal’s most important sites. The Aughinish plant buys bauxite that global mining firm Rio Tinto uses in mines in Guinea and sells to smelters across Europe.
As producers like Rio Tinto hunt for new buyers for their bauxite and sources of alumina to feed smelters, the global chokepoint created by the sanctions means that many of the miners, refiners and smelters that should be benefiting from surging prices are actually facing challenges just to keep their operations running.
Limerick-based Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said Mr Varadkar had to contact Mr Trump directly to inform him of the “unintended consequences” for economies across the world.
“There is a lot of concern in the local community because Aughinish Alumina is a vital part of stability, and it has been very well-run and operated. The company has been in direct contact with the Government but I feel more needs to be done.
“I would urge the Taoiseach to raise the matter directly with President Trump because the unintended consequences of this action are of great concern.”
Prices of alumina are rocketing. India’s National Aluminium sold a cargo of alumina last week at $601 a ton free-on-board, the highest level in 12 years.
Additional reporting Bloomberg