Plans for clean and competitive manufacturing industry, creating many hundreds of new jobs in the Highlands, took a significant step forward at Fort William aluminium smelter today [Friday 3rd March].
Only 10 weeks after acquiring the smelter and two associated hydro-power stations for £330m and securing 170 jobs, GFG Alliance companies, Liberty British Aluminium and SIMEC Lochaber Power, have begun the task of developing an advanced auto-components plant there that promises to generate a further 600 direct and indirect jobs.
The plant is the centrepiece of the £120m first phase of a major long-term investment in the area by the GFG Alliance that will eventually create a total of 1,000 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs and add £1 billion to the local economy.
Today GFG directors and Scottish Government hosted the first meeting the new ‘Lochaber Delivery Group,’ a special joint panel of local agencies set up to support the creation of the new auto plant through the provision of housing, training, infrastructure and services for workers.
Chaired by Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, the new group also includes representatives from The Highlands Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other bodies and individuals needed to aid the progress of the project.
In a further milestone today, Cabinet Secretary Ewing, formally switched on SIMEC’s new £10m bio-diesel power plants at Fort William, boosting renewable energy supply to the site and making it the UK’s greenest metal-producing facility.
The site benefits from a plentiful supply of hydro-power but during abnormally dry periods aluminium production has to be reduced to conserve water. The new tallow-driven power plants will not only sustain production during these temporary shortages but will supply power to the grid on demand when needed, for example when there are low wind levels.
Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of the GFG Alliance said after the meeting: “I am delighted to report excellent progress in our work programme with partners in Scottish Government and local agencies. One of the reasons we invested in the Highlands was because people welcomed us here. That’s been reinforced by the positive response of the many agencies in the new Lochaber Delivery Group who showed today that they are eager to play their part in delivering the goal of a clean, competitive and sustainable manufacturing sector in the Highlands.”
Referring to the new bio-diesel power units Jay Hambro, chief investment officer of the GFG Alliance added: “Today we have begun to make the Highlands greener with an increase in renewable energy. Aluminium production makes an intensive and substantial demand on electricity supply but, with our new generation units, we will move towards becoming a net contributor to the grid. This is another key step forward in our GREENSTEEL plans where we combine renewable energy with metal production.”
Cabinet Secretary Ewing said: “We have built up excellent working relations with Liberty and SIMEC over the past 18 months as they have invested heavily in Scottish industry. Through the Lochaber Delivery Group look forward to continuing to work with them to facilitate and maximise the opportunity their investments will bring. That includes planning for housing and associated services, the construction of the new factory and the right training provision for workers.
“With the first meeting of the Lochaber Delivery Group today, and redevelopment work at the smelter now underway, an exciting new chapter in the history of the local area has now begun. The UK’s last remaining aluminium smelter will continue as a key component of Scotland’s industrial capability and a major source of employment in the Highlands and Islands, and the planned factory promises further expansion and opportunity for communities in Lochaber and beyond.”
The ‘Micro-gen’ bio-fuel plants commissioned today are part of a nationwide programme by SIMEC to install renewable energy capacity at Liberty’s industrial sites that can deliver power on demand within seconds. In the initial phase there will be seven strategically-located plants with a combined capacity of up to 200 megawatts.
This network is a key pillar of the GFG Alliance’s GREENSTEEL strategy which includes the use of a wide range of renewable energy sources to power metal production, including the recycling of used steel in electric arc furnaces.
Further press information from: Eoghan Mortell 07977 555116 or Jess Beeken/Anthea Crowe 029 2045 5182