FOREIGN Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has warned that the threat of sanctions arising from the crisis in Ukraine presents a tangible risk to the Aughinish Alumina refinery in County Limerick.
The company, which employs almost 900 people at its plant near Askeaton, is owned by Russian company Rusal, which was targeted by the US for sanctions by the US Government in 2018.
Addressing the cabinet yesterday, Minister Coveney said that Europe could be facing its first land war in many decades and Ireland risked being caught up in the fallout from the crisis if sanctions were to follow.
He told Ministers that sanctions in reprisal for any military action could have an impact on companies like Aughinish and affect deliveries of Russian coal to the Moneypoint power station.
There are also fears that parts of the globally networked financial services and aircraft-leasing sectors could be caught up in retaliatory actions.
In a recent planning application to An Bord Pleanála, management at Aughinish Alumina stated that a number of new developments are required to ensure that production at the Askeaton plant can continue beyond 2030.
The company is seeking permission to raise the height of the residue disposal area for two of its by-products, bauxite residue and salt cake.
There are currently 482 full time employees and a further 385 contract staff employed at the facility, which is the biggest alumina refinery in Europe.
In its planning application, the company said the closure of the facility at Aughinish would result in a significant loss in highly-skilled employment opportunities in the wider area and result in the loss of one of the state’s major industrial manufacturing facilities.
The application states that aluminium, which is smelted from alumina, will be of increasing importance in the transition towards a low carbon future as it is used in electric vehicles and photo-voltaic panels.
A decision by An Bord Pleanála is expected next June.