April 30, 2013 / 2:13 PM / in 5 years

Alcan suspends anode output at Alma aluminum smelter after death

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - Rio Tinto Alcan has suspended anode production at its 424,000-tonne-per-year Alma aluminum smelter in northern Quebec while it investigates the cause of a fatal accident overnight.

The anode operations at the site will remain shut until further notice after an employee died following an accident at the plant, the company said on Tuesday.

Aluminum production is not affected, a spokeswoman said.

The accident happened early on Tuesday morning, and the company would make no other details available while it investigates the cause, she said.

The plant, which is located in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, about 310 miles (500 km) northeast of Montreal, produces 250,000 anodes per year.

Carbon anodes, which are made from petroleum coke, liquid pitch and recycled carbon material, are used to pass an electrical current through alumina, the key raw ingredient, to convert it into aluminum.

The accident comes a year after a prolonged contract dispute between the company and the union that led to the company locking out unionized workers.

For just over six months last year, Rio operated the plant with non-unionized workers at about one-third of capacity. The output cuts caused a shortage of high-quality rod used by North American cable and wire makers.

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