Full curtailment expected by July

FERNDALE — The Alcoa Corporation announced today that it will fully shut down its Ferndale Intalco Works smelter by the end of July 2020.

“While our employees have worked diligently to improve the facility, the smelter is uncompetitive, and current market conditions have exacerbated the facility’s challenges,” Alcoa President and CEO Roy Harvey said. “This is difficult because of the impact on our employees, and we will ensure appropriate support as we work to safely curtail the facility.”

Since the beginning of 2020, aluminum prices have fallen more than 20% and down 45% from the highs recorded in 2018. The Ferndale smelter lost $24 million in the first quarter of 2020, according to Alcoa’s Wednesday press release.

Intalco Plant Manager Steve Emig said the site’s approximately 700 employees have worked through a variety of challenges to try to make Intalco competitive in the global market.

“Unfortunately, we cannot control the larger market dynamics,” Emig said. “While this is a sad day, I remain proud of our Intalco team. We will work together during this difficult transition, focusing on safety and providing all available support to our employees.”

Intalco will work with its employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Union, and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of the curtailment.

Intalco, established in 1966, has 279,000 metric tons of total operating capacity; 49,000 metric tons of production was curtailed earlier.

According to the release, the Alcoa Foundation will continue its annual giving, donating $200,000 to qualifying non-profit organizations in the local community in 2020.

Following Alcoa’s announcement, Ferndale Mayor Greg Hansen issued a statement regarding the closure:

"This news is simply heartbreaking. The smelter is part of the lifeblood of our community, and they have been putting food on the tables of Ferndale families for almost three generations. This closure will be a critical blow to our local economy in the midst of a difficult time.

We are Ferndale, we look after each other especially when things look the most grim.

I know that I will do everything in my power to breathe life back into this facility and fight like hell for all of our Ferndale families that find themselves out of work."

  State Sen. Doug Ericksen says he will “leave no stone unturned” in an effort to keep the Ferndale plant operating.

  He issued this statement Wednesday in the wake of the closure announcement.

  “Intalco Works is critical to our national manufacturing infrastructure, to our local economy and to the working families of Whatcom County. We can’t let this curtailment become permanent. I will leave no stone unturned as I work with Alcoa corporate, local management at the Intalco Works, and state and federal government officials to find a path to restart.

  “This is a matter of national significance, as we look to protect industries that are critical to our country’s industrial base and our national security. It is one of many challenges we will face as we rebuild our economy in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown, and it is a top priority for Whatcom County and northwest Washington. Keeping this facility in operation will require cooperation from everyone. Our battle is just beginning.”