Government moves to safeguard Aughinish jobs

The Rusal Aughinish Alumina plant at Askeaton.

WITH the October 23 sanctions deadline fast approaching, almost 700 jobs at the Limerick-based Aughinish Alumina hang in the balance as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spearheads a lobbying effort to extend time for the troubled Russian owners.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy, who is Ireland’s special envoy to the US for undocumented immigrants, held talks with US Treasury officials in Washington on Friday.

It came weeks after the Government raised the fate of the Russian-owned facility directly with Kevin Hassett, the chief economist to the White House, when he visited Dublin.

Rusal, the Russian parent firm of the County Limerick plant, is majority owned by En+ which is controlled by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a businessman alleged to have links to the Kremlin.  

As part of the sanctions, the US treasury has given Mr Deripaska until October 23 to divest his interest in Aughinish Alumina and for US businesses to wind up contracts and business. 

If not, the threat of further sanctions hangs over the Limerick firm, sanctions that would put the future of the plant at great risk.

Statements to investors outline that Rusal is currently dealing with the sanctions but it was not sustainable.  

It also emerged this week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s presidential campaign chairman who admitted to charges of financial fraud, received a $10m loan from Mr Deripaska – the loan, according to US prosecutors was never repaid to the Russian billionaire. 

The jobs of 450 permanent staff and 220 contract workers at Aughinish Alumina have now been entangled with Washington’s targeting of Mr Deripaska.

Aughinish Aluminium produces alumina which is exported to be smelted into aluminium.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Patrick O’Donovan said that the Government, at the highest level, is working with the company and in Washington to get a solution.

“This work through diplomatic channels is ongoing with the embassy, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Minister O’Donovan said.

“These talks are to make sure Aughinish Alumina can continue to operate into the future. All the support the Government can give, is being given,” the Limerick Fine Gael TD added.