Dr. Martin Iffert, Trimet's CEO, has confirmed that Trimet and Rio Tinto are in exclusive talks over the two smelters, but Rio Tinto has refused to comment.

According to news reports, Rio Tinto has been trying to sell 'at least 13 aluminium assets' since 2011 when it grouped a number of operations together within its Pacific Aluminium business with a view to selling them.

French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg told the French National Assembly that talks between the two companies started yesterday.

The two French aluminium smelters are at Castelsarrasin and Saint-Jean de Maurienne and the big worry was that Rio Tinto would simply shut down the plants and resume production elsewhere in the world.