Plans to create alloy wheels factory in Fort William scrapped in favour of recycling facility

Plans to create a major alloy wheels factory at a Fort William smelter have been scrapped in favour of a new recycling and casting facility that could create 70 jobs.

Alvance Aluminium forms part of industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance.
Alvance Aluminium forms part of industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance.

Alvance Aluminium, which forms part of industrialist Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance empire, said the decision followed a “significant decline” in the UK automotive sector.

The initial proposals would have seen the creation of a £120 million plant to manufacture wheels for at least a fifth of all UK-made cars from 2022 onwards, creating as many as 400 skilled jobs.

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The firm has now unveiled a £94m investment package to secure Fort William’s future as a “green aluminium hub”.

Proposals will be submitted to Highlands Council for approval. If approved, the new integrated business plan and associated developments will secure the long-term future of the Fort William aluminium smelter, safeguarding 200 jobs and creating 70 high quality roles, the group said.

Subject to approvals and “any further impact” from the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm aims to commence the new development works in 2021 and is targeting full operation by 2024.

In a new venture for the group, GFG Alliance is also tabling plans for a new water canning facility, located next to the Fort William plant, to package Highlands water into reusable aluminium cans to provide an alternative to plastic bottles for sale to the UK and international market.

Brian King, chairman of Alvance British Aluminium, said: “I’m very pleased to be putting these plans forward which will provide a long-term future for our Fort William operations.

“Since putting forward our original plans for a wheels factory the automotive industry has gone through significant decline in the UK.

“Fortunately, the construction industry is buoyant and is using ever more aluminium billet giving us the chance to produce a quality product making use of primary metal from the smelter and recycled scrap.

“There will be opportunities for local firms to be involved in the construction of the new facilities and new job opportunities for local people.”

Gupta, executive chairman of GFG Alliance, said: “The transformation plan we’re announcing today underlines our commitment to investing in Scotland and our belief in the bright future of green aluminium.

“Recycling aluminium saves 95 per cent of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium and is a key part of GFG’s mission to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“By utilising domestic scrap aluminium that is currently exported, we will nearly double production here at Fort William.”

He added: “These investments will make us more competitive and will deliver a higher value product in the form of billet for construction to domestic and export markets.

“The new facilities, alongside the Lochaber hydro plant, will create market-leading products that deliver for the environment as well as the economy.”

The investment in a new recycling and casting facility will take aluminium production at the Fort William plant from just over 40,000 tonnes per annum to some 80,000 tonnes. The new facility will produce long, round shapes – billets – for the domestic construction sector which currently relies heavily on imports.

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