Anglesey Aluminium


November 24 2010

If you want to buy a plant you don’t necessarily have to go to a Garden Centre.

Got £10million to spare then why not put in a bid for the Penrhos Site of the former Aluminium plant in Holyhead.

You won’t get the entire site because Anglesey Aluminium will continue to use the aluminium smelting pot lines; however, that does leave you with a substantial amount of the site available for industrial use.

The smelting plant work will probably come to an end in 18 months as Anglesey Aluminium has already begun the process of decommissioning the site. This will mean the loss of another 80 to 90 jobs.

Just under 90 acres of the site have been set aside for the construction of a £600 million pound 300 Mega Watt wood burning plant, which would, hopefully generate not only power but about 100 jobs in the long run.


What is to the advantage of any purchaser of the land and units for sale is the in-situ utility connections. The site has been serviced with electricity, gas and water supply at an industrial scale since being built in 1968.

There are distinct employment opportunities should a major purchaser be found and be interested. Not all the previous Anglesey Aluminium employees laid off have found employment that uses their particular highly honed skills. Good wages and conditions would probably see most drift back.

Anglesey Aluminium and Wylfa Nuclear Power Station were two of the best wage packets in the whole of North Wales. Wylfa continues to be so. So losing the 400 jobs at Anglesey Aluminium has been a substantial blow to the economy of the Island. As I write above, in 18 months you can add another 80 or 90 jobs to that total.


If you peruse the other news items on this page then you’ll be fully aware that there has been a significant effort to generate international interest in the Penrhos Site. Peter Hain, the former Secretary of State for Wales had engaged with German companies to use the site for the production of substantial wind turbines.

Sad to say the change of government has moved the focus away for Anglesey and other than supportive statement from Ms Cheryl Gillan MP the current Secretary of State for Wales, on the projected Wylfa B New Build she has not visited the Island.

To be frank about the above point, I’m not sure that it would be of any use other than affording the Council a few photos and an illusion of purpose.

A recent letter in the Holyhead & Anglesey Mail highlighted the fact that the County Council may be focussing entirely on Wylfa B to the detriment of enticing any other projects. This particular sales proposal is entirely the manufacture of Kaiser/Rio Tinto Zinc who are pretty desperate to move away for the site.

One has to be very cynical about Kaiser’s ‘commitment’ to generating employment on the site.


While it is encouraging that we have a bespoke site available for purpose and industrial development, this has to be set against a massive downturn in the availability of money for major investments.

It’s an economic reality that all major industrial developments come about as the result of massive support grants from Central Government.

Therefore, one must ask the obvious question, Will a government intent on cutting public spending, having already cancelled significant industrial support grants in its first week, be worth approaching if you’re a large industrial corporation.

Unless you’re BP or a similar sized company with a high public dependency on its product and massive amounts of cash in your bank account, no company is likely to invest its own money in an uncertain world market.


The nightmare scenario will be seeing the site being leased out piece-meal to small companies. None of whom will have a responsibility for the overall maintenance of the site. It’s clear that Kaiser doesn’t care.

So what was a thriving and busy industrial site that one could tolerate because of its vital role in a local economy could easily become an industrial hinterland mess that would be an appalling introduction to anyone driving into Holyhead.

I cringe every time I drive past the old Ferodo Plat in Caernarfon. Were once 1200 people were employed and the site kept immaculately, we now have a very scruffy site that must be heartbreaking for the people of that wonderful town.


We have to because we are hostages to fortune at the moment. We have to hold our breath, cross our fingers, search for shooting stars to make our desperate wishes.

There is a danger that this industrial disaster in Holyhead becomes no more than wallpaper in the lives of people and the County Council.

The Welsh Assembly has a major role to play here, though we seemed to have seen a very lack lustre performance from the Economic Development Minister to date. Though I’m sure we’ll have plenty of promises from him between now and the Welsh Assembly Elections next Spring.



February 25 2010

This week Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Wales, stated that he was in discussion with manufacturers of Wind Turbines to set up a manufacturing base at the defunct Penrhos Aluminium Aluminium Smelter in Holyhead.

Of course, this comes as very good news an area that has been devastated by the loss of around 700 jobs employment in the last year.

Mr Hain said that Anglesey now had the potential for becoming a significant player in Green Technology. This latest news comes in support of the Island’s Member of Parliament, Albert Owen’s project to create an Energy Island for the UK on Anglesey to further the development of Low Carbon technological expertise.

I am certain that you already be aware of the proposals to build an offshore wind turbine farm some nine miles to the north west of the Island

As yet the company in question has yet to be named; however, the possibility of bringing high-skilled jobs back to Anglesey is exciting news. Mr Hain will soon be flying out on a fact-finding mission to Bremerhaven, which is a renowned offshore wind power centre of production and development. Over 185 companies are based in the town engaged in the manufacture of all aspects of wind turbines.

Mr Hain said that Holyhead was well-placed to attract the manufacturing jobs because of the town’s deep-water port. This would facilitate the construction of wind turbines outside of the town and their transportation by ship to the proposed wind farm site.

With the prospect of thousands of new jobs during the construction, commissioning and operation phases of a Wylfa B Nuclear Power Station, Mr Hain’s hinting at hundreds more jobs is a definite filip for a community under great stress from recent job losses.


October 19th 2009

So what do you do when you lose a very lucrative income and have a large mortgage and quality of life to maintain?

First thing you do is seek out employment that offers the same level of pay. Not easy on Anglesey because the largest payers is Wylfa Nuclear Power Station and WAS Anglesey Aluminium. Indeed, these were two of the largest and best paying employers in the whole of North Wales.

Apart from a few specialist employers you won’t find anything on such a scale as these.

What do you if you have honed your skills working on the smelting pot lines for the last thirty years or are a highly qualified systems analyst or metallurgist? Standard two-shift salaries in the region of a basic £34,000 won’t be found anywhere in North Wales – especially after the Welsh Assembly Government failed to save the Dolgarrog Aluminium plant.

What if a rich company from the Arab Emirates comes knocking on your door and says, “Listen, I have just the job for you. We will pay you well above what you have been earning. You are highly skilled. So skilled indeed that what is difficult for new workers comes easily to you.

“The ONLY complication is that you’ll have to travel 4,000 miles to Dubai. But, as I said, we’ll pay you really well.”

What to do?


The Emirates Aluminium Company is building a massive $5.75billion smelter at Khalifa Port between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and is now throwing their net far and wide to bring in skilled smelter workers from across the world.

A friend of mine who in his youth served on whale catchers after the Second World War remembers other young men from Anglesey doing the same in the early thirties. They came back to their impoverished communities with pockets full of money and - other than buying new furniture and presents for their mothers - spent much of it on good times in the local pubs. The money disappeared very quickly.

Not that I am daring to suggest that this is what those newly redundant Anglesey smelter workers will do; however, after enjoying a good Christmas and a fabulous holiday they will be back in the real world.

The interest rates at present are so low that any interest accrued by savings of ... say £75,000 will never support the lifestyle that they have financially become accustomed to. This is especially true for those younger workers who have not yet paid off their mortgages.

As a moderately young smelter worker from Llangefni told me this weekend, “I have a house to pay for and soon there’ll be University bills. How on earth am I going to maintain those payments working anywhere in North Wales?”

As he sees it there are three choices: give up and start living poorly, go to Dubai OR take up a similar job that’s being advertised in the growing metal industries of India.


One up-side is that those who choose to work abroad will still find their money getting into the tills at the local shops because it would be too much for an established family to move to such a culturally alien place. It’s a young man’s challenge or a peson with large family responsibilties.

However, it is the loss of highly talented individuals from the local employment economy that is important to focus on. Why? Well, what makes an area attractive to any large scale industry or small to medium enterprise is the level of skilled and professionally inclined workers about.

So, the loss of this talent – while ensuring that some families still have a large income coming into their household – will mean that Anglesey becomes less attractive to quality employers who wish to move in quickly, set up quickly and become profitable quickly.

If you haven’t got workers available to you who are used to working to high tolerances under time pressure then you’ll tend to look elsewhere.

I’m afraid I’d chase the money. In the pursuit of real-life happiness money is very, very important.

Good luck to the guys and lovely ladies who take up the challenge.



October 14th 2009

It seems that there is a bit of promising news to Anglesey and Holyhead after the appalling recent news of the final closure of the Aluminium Smelting Plant on 30 September 2009.

After lodging a planning application to the Department of Energy on September 1st 2009, Anglesey Aluminium has now commenced on the Consultation Stage of the planning process.

It is proposed that a £600Million 300 Mega Watt wood burning plant be built on the smelter site. When operational it is intended that 100 people would be employed in its operation and maintenance. A further 600 people would be employed during the construction stage.

This is a proposal that will be welcomed here on Anglesey and especially Holyhead, which has seen the loss of almost 800 jobs over the last year between the Plant and Eaton Electricals.

The bio-fuel would be imported as waste wood from Canada, with an annual requirement in the region 2.2million tonnes. Holyhead is blessed with one of the very few deep-water dock facilities on the western coast of Britain.

It is this feature that was partially instrumental in attracting Rio Tinto Zinc to set up the plant in the first place; also, the commendable negotiation skills of Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos when he was the Island’s Member of Parliament helped enormously.

Anglesey Aluminium’s the deep-water dock has already been in the news over the past eighteen months because the County Council wishes to use it as a docking bay for the cruise ships that regularly visit Holyhead. At present the cruise ships are obliged to anchor offshore and passengers brought ashore by tenders.

Anglesey Aluminium say that the docking facilities can easily cope with the proposed dual docking of the monthly bio-plant fuel ship from Canada and the Cruise Ships.

The news of the planning application for a bio-fuel power plant at the Penrhos has been welcomed by Anglesey residents and enjoys broad support. So here’s hoping.


September 30th 2009

I paraphrase, but as AC/DC sing, “With a flick of the switch, you’re dead...” The industrial site remains but the industry is no more than a memory.

Today the energy contract between Wylfa Nuclear Power Station and Anglesey Aluminium comes to an end. The employment of more than 500 people on Anglesey comes to a cruel end and Rio Tinto Alcan walk away having betrayed and lied to all with whom they pretended to negotiate.

The energy contract has been the main focus of economists and politicians for the past 10 years, as they sought to facilitate between the two large companies.

It has to be recorded that Greg Evans the newly retired Manager of Wylfa took major was a willing and committed participant at the talks table, along with Dave Bloor of Anglesey Aluminium.

The professional willingness of these two men, the Union Leaders and Albert Owen MP cannot be faulted.

However, as it has since been revealed that the energy contract was a gambit. From a long way out Rio Tinto Alcan had been employing this only as an excuse to bring about the planned demise of the Penrhos Smelting Plant.


It turns out that the energy contract was merely a smoke screen to hide the real intention that was always there. Rio Tinto had been planning for years to close the plant and sell it off for enormous profit by the construction of a Bio-Mass power plant.

Is it any wonder that the broad community of Anglesey and significant politicians in both Westminster and the Welsh Assembly despise the company?

The Welsh Assembly Government point to the Mon Menai Project as a source of a solution to the serious loss of employment on Anglesey. But one has to wonder as to the ambition and credibility of this project.

To date, nothing has come of this body and as a wag was heard to comment. “We’ll be back to a cottage industry making love spoons for the tourists.” Make that ‘Ironic Love Spoons.”



For 40 years the workers of Anglesey Aluminium proved themselves to be manufacturers of aluminium product of an extremely high standard. The profit over that 40 years must be mind boggling because the plant paid for its construction and infrastructure costs years ago.

The £48 Million that Peter Hain, Albert Owen and Rhodri Morgan managed to persuade the Treasury in Whitehall to make available to Anglesey Aluminium was unprecedented.

Over the period of a single weekend’s solid work in Cardiff and Whitehall this money appeared and was presented as a solution to the company’s demand for aid and financial assistance.

In truth, this money could have been spent in any reasonable way that the company required. With wages bill of about £1.4million a month it would have removed one of their major financial overheads entirely for almost three years.

But as we all now know. The last thing they expected was for anyone to step in with a financial package solution. The last thing they expected was intervention from Downing Street.

Their plans to leave were made. Believe you me, they would have taken the £48 million and then walked away.

The only thing that stopped Rio Tinto taking the Public Money and walking away, according to Peter Hain and Albert Owen, was a single demand from the Treasury. If they did leave within a set period that they would have to pay back the money.

Rio Tinto Alcan refused such a proposal and Peter Hain stated that there was no way that he could sign off £48million of Public Money for a ‘pig in a poke’.

Peter Hain was absolutely correct in his decision. As I write above, Rio Tinto - having already misled and ‘prevaricated’ - would essentially have stolen the public money if this condition had not been imposed as part of the agreement.


So Rio Tinto Walk away with their public image severely damaged. As damaged as their overall business if you look at the legacy of their purchase of Alcan.

And Anglesey ...? Well, Anglesey has to find a way forward. This is a time for leadership, commitment and people of solid integrity.

Anglesey’s future lays with Wylfa B and those politicians in Cardiff have to find a way to step back from their fundamental opposition to nuclear power.

Their opposition is no longer a credible or tenable position in light of Climate Change.

Nor is that position tenable considering what will inevitably become political and economic vulnerability and hostages to the vicissitudes of Global Power Plays in far away Russia, Libya and the Middle East.

The Future can be Bright and for Anglesey and the United Kingdom it has to be Nuclear.



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Anglesey Aluminium March Set 19 2009

Anglesey Aluminium Betray Anglesey

September 19th 2009

Over a hundred local people and workers marched through the town of Holyhead to a rally at Anglesey Aluminium on Saturday 19th September.

They marched to express their dismay and disgust at the decision earlier this month to close the smelter plant at Penrhos.

Over 440 jobs will be lost to Anglesey at the end of the month. This figure only reflects those directly employed by the company and there will be many external jobs lost.

The impact on Anglesey and the town of Holyhead in particular could well be devastating. The wage bill for Anglesey Aluminium was over £1million a month.

Anglesey Aluminium March September 19 2009

The march started from the Town Hall under the banners of the Unite Union and gathered about it members of the public, family and workers led by the Mayor, Mr John Chorlton, Albert Owen MP, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM and Union leaders.

Conversations with those Anglesey Aluminium smelter workers soon to be laid off brought about expressions of betrayal by Rio Tinto Zinc, who walked away from an unprecedented £48 million package from the Westminster and Welsh Assembly Governments.

This is a company that has made tens of millions of pounds of profit in its forty years of operations in Holyhead.

Anglesey Aluminium March September 19 2009

This money could have been used by Anglesey Aluminium to cover it against energy costs deficits.

Initially the company had clearly stated that if these energy costs could be met and the company could break even then they would stay.

Viewing the negotiations in retrospect, it is quite clear now that Rio Tinto Zinc/Kaiser never, ever intended to honour any deal put to it.

All this, despite interventions by the office of the Prime Minister, Peter Mandelson Secretary of State at the DTI, Peter Hain MP, Welsh Secretary, Rhodri Morgan AM, Welsh First Minister and Albert Owen MP for Ynys Môn (Anglesey).

The personal commitment by Albert Owen, Peter Hain and the union leaders revived negotiations that were more or less dead in the water until their intervention.

Anglesey Aluminium March September 19 2009

The company it now appears was ready to walk away months ago and it was only through the high profile intervention led by Albert Owen MP that they were dragged back to the negotiating table.

Rio Tinto Zinc/Kaiser gave out a list of what it was they required to continue their operations on Anglesey.

This was no more than a bluff, because the Anglesey Aluminium board never thought that their request could be met, particularly the money angle.

A Treasury team in Whitehall and WAG Cardiff worked throughout a weekend to create a financial package that any other industry would have grabbed with both hands.

The money could have been used by the company in any reasonable manner to help it through an anticipated three year period while commodity prices could recover to raise aluminium prices once again.

Rio Tinto Zinc/Kaiser walked away from the table and that was the end of Anglesey Aluminium.

Anglesey Aluminium March Alwyn Rowlands


In acts of solidarity with the workers people came out of the shops and many applauded. The march of men, women and children made its way to the Penrhos site where Union leaders and politicians took to the stage to speak out against Rio Tinto Zinc and to praise the efforts of Albert Owen and Peter Hain for their efforts on behalf of the workers and Holyhead.

In a passionate speech Albert Owen spoke about the commitment of the workers in creating a highly profitable company by their skill and hard work. Mr Owen also reflected on the company’s response to the workers' commitment by their betrayal an duplicity.

It turns out that the company had conceived plans to create a bio-mass power station on the Penrhos site as far back as the early 90s, with a view to selling off the plant at a massive profit.

With such a bio-mass station on site, it would be worth more than £100million.

Politicians and Union leaders will be meeting with the senior management of Anglesey Aluminium to demand recompense is made to the community of Holyhead and Anglesey for their appallingly cynical demeanour.

It is to be hoped that any financial legacy will be administered outside of Anglesey.

Other than 81 workers and administrators, Anglesey Aluminium is no more.

The march was conducted in good spirit and all righteous observations were applauded warmly. Though the inappropriate political opportunism by the Plaid Cymru candidate gained him no new friends and a flea in the ear from the organisers for his cheek.

The Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Trefor Jones also showed his solidarity with the workers by joining the march.

Anglesey Aluminium Albert Owen MP

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