The Australian Aluminium Council (AAC) and Australian Workers’ Union have urged state and federal government of Australia to exempt refineries and smelters from the COVID-19 lockdown as halting operations would lead to huge loss of capital and jobs.
AAC and the workers union urged the governments to widen the scope of the definition of essential workers and to include workers in the manufacturing sector within the ambit of essential services. The council’s members include Rusal, Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Alumina Limited among others. The non-inclusion of workers in essential workers definition has impacted the supply chain of the aluminium industry and poses a risk of permanent closure of alumina refineries and aluminium smelters across Australia.
Integrated aluminium industry includes bauxite mines, alumina refineries and aluminium smelters and contractors for crucial supplies and services, said a joint statement issued by the two associations. The temporary closure in any part of this supply chain could result in chemical instability at alumina refineries or the freezing of an aluminium smelter and cause permanent closure of these operations.
Aluminium smelters are working closely with Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to ensure this continuity of supply chains. Smelters have played a critical role in the stability of the Australian electricity grid and their uninterrupted operation is essential to avoid blackouts at this time of crisis.
The Australian aluminium industry directly employs around 14,500 people nationally. Smelters are implementing health safety measures for operational staff and changes have been made in the size of operations and shift patterns to limit physical interactions and control the spread of the virus.