Q1 eyed for first metal pour at Kitimat smelter

Rio Tinto Alcan updated the business community on the happenings at the modernization construction site recently.

A budgetary and scheduling review is underway for the Rio Tinto Alcan modernization project in Kitimat.

But Rio Tinto Alcan’s BC Operations General Manager Gaby Poirier is thinking that the first quarter in 2015 will see the commissioning and start-up of the rebuilt smelter.

Poirier spoke to members of the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce at a lunch meeting on February 26, giving an overall update to the KMP project.

In general though the KMP project is 65 per cent complete — that includes procurements and material gathering — while construction specifically is 40 per cent complete.

KMP workers currently sits at 2,400 people now with a peak in workforce this coming June. Poirier didn’t specify how many are needed in June but RTA is bringing in a retrofitted ferry to house workers. With a capacity of 500 beds, that will add to the 460 capacity remaining in the existing camp.

He said 1,300 of 1,760 beds at the KMP camp are currently full.

We asked Manager, Corporate Affairs & Community Relations Colleen Nyce to elaborate on the camp situation and she said the occupancy varies during the week as people go on days off, but they are planning a zero per cent vacancy by the end of the month. With the arrival of the Delta Spirit they anticipate that to be full as well.

As for incentives to keep people in the camps, given the town’s nearly full capacity, she said workers are now not being offered a living allowance to live in the town over the camp.

“This was done in the earlier stages of the project when the town’s accommodations were not full to capacity and landlords and the business community preferred us to allow workers to live in town. Since other project proponents have come to the region and also occupying local accommodations, our company has a) discontinued the practice of entering new living out allowance agreements and b) procured the supply of the Accommodation Vessel in order for us to take care of our own workers,” she wrote in an e-mail.

As for the permanent workforce, RTA is still eyeing an approximate 1,000 workforce for the smelter once completed, with up to 800 employees working under the smelter’s union.

Poirier said the drop from the existing 1,200 workers to the 1,000 will be a gradual process and that there will be surplus people during the transition.

However he said they’re going to use natural attrition to reduce the workforce.

So far 95 per cent of the workforce know what their role will be in the new smelter and they have over 150,000 training hours still to do before everyone will be trained on their new roles.

While his presentation didn’t touch in detail on emissions, we asked whether the appeal challenges to RTA’s new sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions would in any way impact construction.

The short answer is no.

“We do have a permit,” he said, despite appeals which are coming in May.

“We’ve got everything to install a scrubber if we need to. But if we base on the science, the report that we have, the best option is the one that we take, so the stack to disperse it. If not we’re going to concentrate everything in the Douglas Channel.”