Smelter bosses re­veal plans to cre­ate man­u­fac­tur­ing hub

The Oban Times - - News - MONICA GIB­SON mgib­son@oban­

A COM­MU­NITY con­sul­ta­tion is to take place as the new owner of the alu­minium smelter in Fort Wil­liam gets to work on mak­ing its plans a re­al­ity.

Lib­erty Bri­tish Alu­minium, part of the GFG Al­liance, aims to make the town a key ve­hi­cle com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ing hub by ex­pand­ing the lo­cal alu­minium smelter into a ma­jor low-car­bon en­gi­neer­ing com­plex, em­ploy­ing many hun­dreds of peo­ple.

This vi­sion of the fu­ture was out­lined to Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Bade­noch, and Ian Black­ford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, dur­ing an in-depth fact-find­ing visit to the plant last week (Wed­nes­day April 12).

They were shown the site of Lib­erty’s planned new com­po­nents fac­tory, which will process alu­minium from the smelter into high-spec­i­fi­ca­tion al­loy wheels and other ve­hi­cle parts.

It was also re­vealed a com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion will be­gin shortly on the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for the new plant that will cre­ate 300 di­rect and 300 sup­ply- chain jobs as part of the £120m first phase of an in­vest­ment by Lib­erty and sis­ter com­pany SIMEC.

SIMEC is sup­ply­ing hy­dro and bio-diesel power to the plant un­der GFG’s low-car­bon GREENMETAL strat­egy. Fol­low-up in­vest­ments by the GFG Al­liance in other in­dus­trial op­er­a­tions in the area are ex­pected to in­crease the num­ber of new jobs to 1,000 di­rect and 1,000 in­di­rect over the next decade.

Brian King, manag­ing di­rec­tor Lochaber op­er­a­tions for Lib­erty and SIMEC, said: ‘We are hugely en­cour­aged by the in­ter­est and sup­port shown by Kate and Ian. This spirit of part­ner­ship is ex­actly what we need in or­der to make this ven­ture a big suc­cess for the lo­cal and re­gional econ­omy.’

Mr Black­ford said: ‘When you look at the vi­sion that Lib­erty and its man­age­ment have, there is no doubt in my mind that what they are do­ing is good for Lochaber and the High­lands.

‘Plans for the new Lib­erty in­dus­trial fa­cil­i­ties in Lochaber are pro­ceed­ing rapidly, with the real prospect of re-in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of the High­lands bring­ing very much needed jobs and an eco­nomic boost.

‘With this num­ber of jobs, we must take a real look at in­fra­struc­ture and what will be needed, not least in pro­vid­ing new homes for the many peo­ple who will work here.

‘This has to start now. We must work with Lib­erty to keep pace with what they are do­ing and en­sure that a work­force can be ac­com­mo­dated where and when it is needed.’

Ms Forbes added: ‘I am ex­cited about Lib­erty’s plans for the smelter be­cause it could make the High­lands the cen­tre for pro­duc­tion of car com­po­nents. The po­ten­tial for jobs is enor­mous and I hope the ben­e­fits of in­creased eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity will spread through­out Lochaber com­mu­ni­ties. I am pleased that Lib­erty has not just talked about plans, al­ready ac­tively turn­ing its plans into re­al­ity.

‘The faster that Lib­erty gets started, the quicker we’ll see the ben­e­fits. I’m work­ing closely with Lib­erty and oth­ers to make sure that there are no ob­sta­cles to slow down progress. We need jobs, more hous­ing and bet­ter roads and I hope these plans un­lock huge po­ten­tial for the High­lands.’ Leader com­ment – page eight.

Pho­to­graph: Iain Fer­gu­son, The Write Im­age

MP Ian Black­ford and MSP Kate Forbes are shown around the Fort Wil­liam smelter.

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