Rio Tinto Alcan to slash 1,100 jobs

“Plans are in place to reduce the workforce by approximately 1,100 roles — 300 contractors and 800 employee roles,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.

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“In addition, substantial cost reduction programmes are being implemented across all Rio Tinto Alcan facilities.”

Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto bought Canadian aluminium group Alcan for 38.1 billion dollars in 2007.

Rio Tinto Alcan said that “in response to global economic conditions,” it would cut its aluminium production by six percent and shut the Beauharnois smelter in Quebec.

The facility, which employs 220 people, will cease smelting activities in the second quarter of 2009, it added.

“Our goal is to align production with customer demand and reduce our operating costs as much as possible,” Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive Dick Evans said in a statement.

“Increasing efficiency throughout our operations and streamlining our organisation will be crucial to achieving our objectives and preserving value for shareholders.

“We are taking steps towards optimising our world class portfolio of lowcost, long life assets, the majority of which are in the lowest half of the industry cost curve,” Evans added.

Rio Tinto repeatedly rejected a takeover offer pursued throughout much of 2008 by rival BHP Billiton, which eventually dropped its bid in November, citing a deteriorating economic climate.

Jacynthe Cote, president and chief executive officer, Primary Metal, Rio Tinto Alcan, said Tuesday that the ongoing worldwide downturn had forced the group to make “difficult” choices about cutting jobs.

“The global economic downturn has meant that we must make difficult but necessary choices for our organisation and we will make sure that those affected are treated with fairness and respect,” said Cote.

“We will continue to honour our commitments to employees, customers, governments, communities and other key stakeholders.”

Cote, who will become chief executive of Rio Tinto Alcan on February 1, is currently carrying out a full review of the division.

Last week, Rio Tinto announced the appointment of Jim Leng, currently deputy chairman of India\’s Tata Steel, as its new chairman. Leng will take over from current chairman Paul Skinner on April 20.