Aughinish and Russian crisis needs Taoiseach to seek Trump intervention

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PRESIDENT Donald Trump should be contacted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the threat to almost 700 jobs caused by the US imposed sanctions effecting the Russian owned Aughinish Alumina plant in Limerick.

The call comes from Limerick TD and Fianna Fail spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Niall Collins as the crisis deepens at the County Limerick facility that is the largest alumina refinery in Europe.

Amid claims of Russian interference in the US presidential elections, the alumina industry has been sent into a spiral as the US treasury targets businesses and people on the sanctions list thus preventing US firms engaging.

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However, the possibility of secondary sanctions being imposed on no US registered firms has sent suppliers scrambling to sell their products elsewhere.

Suppliers to the UC Rusal owned Limerick plant are now considering their agreements and contracts amid the chaos caused in the industry.

Earlier this week, Deputy Collins called for the Government to do everything it could to protect the 700 or so jobs at the plant that refines alumina to be used in the production of everything from cans to airplanes.

Limerick-based Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said Mr Varadkar had to contact Mr Trump directly to inform him of the “unintended consequences” for economies across the world.

“There is a lot of concern in the local community because Aughinish Alumina is a vital part of stability, and it has been very well-run and operated. The company has been in direct contact with the Government but I feel more needs to be done.

“I would urge the Taoiseach to raise the matter directly with President Trump because the unintended consequences of this action are of great concern.”

With stocks and parent company bonds slumping after a number of major customers said they were reviewing their contracts with London Metal Exchange distancing itself from the Russian alumina giant, the Limerick TD added that swift action must be taken to protect the jobs.

“This is a very fluid situation and the protection of these 450 valuable jobs is of huge importance along with the almost 250 contractor’s who also work on site.”

Last week as the crisis deepened, a government spokesperson said that it was in close contact with all State agencies to monitor the situation.

The US imposed sanctions bar US companies from doing business with Rusal and its metal magnate Oleg Deripaska who was targeted in the SDN list published by the treasury in Washington last Friday.

UC Rusal has seen a number of resignations from its board amid the crisis as well as some of its customers, including the London Metal Exchange, reviewing contracts and agreements in the wake of the sanctions.

The board of directors published a notice advising shareholders and potential investors “to exercise extreme caution when dealing in the securities of the company.”

Deputy Collins said on a recent visit that the UC Rusal owned facility “is a major employer in Limerick and contributor to the local economy. I visited the plant recently and was very impressed by presentation given by management team.

In 2007, UC Rusal took ownership of the Aughinish where the plant processes bauxite into alumina, a major ingredient in aluminium manufacturing.

With turmoil hitting the Russian markets, UC Rusal assets also saw decline with its Hong Kong shares taking severe hits.

Glencore, a Swiss based major investor in UC Rusal said that that it would be evaluating its position as a major shareholder in the Russian firm.

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