Confusion surrounds billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s position on the board of Russian aluminium giant Rusal, the owner of Aughinish Alumina in Limerick.
The decision of Mr Deripaska to stand down from the board of directors of En+ Group, Rusal’s majority shareholder, was described by Limerick TD Niall Collins as a “positive development” for the 450 jobs and more than 200 agency positions at Aughinish near Askeaton.
However, Mr Deripaska has still not stepped down formally from Rusal’s own board of directors, the company said, adding that its business may still be affected by US sanctions.
“The company reiterates that its current assessment is that it is still highly likely that the impact may be materially adverse to the business and prospects of the group,” Rusal said in a filing to the Hong Kong bourse.
“As at the date of this announcement, the company has not received any formal resignation from Mr Deripaska.”
Rusal shares, which slumped in April on news of the sanctions, were up more than 5% in Hong Kong.
The jobs in Limerick have been under a cloud as US sanctions imposed on Rusal played havoc with metal markets over the past month.
Mr Deripaska was targeted because of his purported close ties to the Kremlin. He has repeatedly called the sanctions “groundless” but has indicated he would divest his interests in businesses like Rusal.
The threat of sanctions has also affected other large companies. Mining giant Rio Tinto has plants in France and Iceland that use the Irish alumina, and Liberty House Group’s Scottish smelter also depends on the site.
The US Administration has since softened its stance towards Rusal, saying its issue is with Mr Deripaska and not the company.
Mr Collins said the stepping down of Mr Deripaska from En+ Group was good news for the workers, but urged the Government to keep abreast of all developments and engage with its counterparts in Washington.
“It is a positive development that Mr Deripaska has recognised this is the option he needs to pursue. In doing so, it will hopefully ensure the future of Aughinish’s viability,” the Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman said. Business Minister Heather Humphreys raised Aughinish with US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington earlier this month.
The department said it was closely engaging with the firm and its management and continues “to keep the situation under close and careful review”, adding that Mr Ross was aware of the threat to the Irish jobs.