Varadkar in talks over Aughinish fears

By David Raleigh

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a private meeting with managers at the Russian-owned alumina plant in Askeaton in Co Limerick, as “concern” mounted over the plant and its 450 workers.

Aughinish is the largest alumina refinery in Europe but its operator Rusal has been hit by sanctions imposed by the US on the firm’s owner, Oleg Deripaska.

The sanctions effectively ban US companies or persons from dealing with Rusal. The sanctions do not directly affect the plant though this could change.

Mr Deripaska, who is reportedly close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, was targeted along with six other oligarchs in President Donald Trump’s sanctions hit-list. 

Rusal’s shares have nosedived since the sanctions were imposed last week, shedding half their value on the Hong Kong stock market.

Moody’s and Fitch this week both withdrew Rusal’s credit ratings, according to Rusal’s own website. It said: “Fitch has withdrawn the ratings due to the sanction restrictions of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury of the USA (OFAC).”

Management representatives of Aughinish Alumina, including managing director Damien Clancy, travelled to Rusal’s head offices in Russia in recent days to assess any potential impact on Aughinish, sources have confirmed.

The Taoiseach confirmed he met Aughinish representatives in Limerick yesterday. 

He said: “Obviously there is a concern that the US sanctions imposed on Russia could have an impact on Rusal. 

"Everyone, including the IDA, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, are very aware of the situation, and, the Government will do everything we can to protect the investment (at Aughinish) and protect the jobs there.”

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