Expansion plans have been lodged with Highland Council for the aluminium smelter in Lochaber, keeping hopes of up to 70 new jobs for the area alive.
Last November, Alvance British Aluminium (ABA) announced £94million expansion plans by its owner, GFG Alliance, in the Fort William plant, bringing up to 70 new jobs, with 20-25 jobs created in the first three years.
Originally ear-marked for alloy car wheel production, hopes for a £120m investment with 300 jobs were dashed in the light of falling confidence in the automotive industry.
The plans were re-purposed to create a factory casting blocks of aluminium known as billets for the UK construction sector, with the possibility of a water canning facility also to come on the smelter site.
Planners say the site proposed is similar to that of the alloy wheel plant granted in 2018, but with differences to the south-east and north boundary, and no longer an access link to the Glen Nevis business park.
The 64 acre site is to the immediate south and west of the existing smelter, and will use the existing site access.
Primary aluminium from the smelter, and secondary aluminium brought in, will be melted and cast in a building of more than 107,000 sq ft.
The billets produced will be of different specifications, sizes and lengths.
There will also be a casting pit some 80ft deep and 22ft long, metal storage areas, furnaces, fume abatement systems and facilities for different gases.
A large area of hard standing is proposed to store the billets for transportation, and landscaping, planting and drainage are also part of the plans.
To support the expansion ABA is also proposing significant upgrades to the nearby port of Corpach to speed up material flow.
With smelting processes already powered by GFG Alliance’s zero-emission hydro-electric power, the addition of recycling and expansion into “sustainably produced” billets is expected to give ABA a competitive advantage as demand for “green” aluminium grows.
ABA says subject to approvals and any further impact from the pandemic, it hopes to start the new development this year, targeting full operation by 2024.
Highland Council’s south planning councillors will discuss the early plans for the facility at a meeting next Wednesday.
After a period of consultation, the proposals will go forward for full planning permission.
If approved, the developments are expected to secure the long-term future of the smelter, safeguarding nearly 200 existing jobs.
GFG Alliance executive chairman said the plan underlines the group’s commitment to investing in Scotland.
“The new facilities, alongside the Lochaber hydroplant, will create market-leading green aluminium products that deliver for the environment as well as the economy.”
Alvance said an announcement about a public consultation on the plans will be made in the coming weeks.