Past and present employees of the UK’s only remaining aluminium factory gathered in Fort William today to mark the 90th anniversary of the Lochaber hydro-electric plant and smelter – one of Scotland’s best known industrial plants.
The factory, on the foothills of Ben Nevis, was acquired by the GFG Alliance for €330 million three years ago and produces up to 50,000 tonnes of aluminium annually, powered by renewable energy from fresh water running off the slopes of Scotland’s highest mountain.
Guests including Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster leader, will today be treated to commemorative bottles of whisky from the local Ben Nevis distillery and a retrospective exhibition detailing the Lochaber plant’s colourful history.
Coinciding with the event, the GFG Alliance published its first Scottish report detailing industrial investment of £500m in six aluminium, steel and energy sites across the country, the creation or safeguard of over 400 jobs and spending of nearly £22m with local suppliers.
Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Chairman of the GFG Alliance, said: “The Lochaber complex was an engineering triumph, requiring 2,000 men to drive tunnels through the solid rock of the Ben Nevis range. That Highland ‘can do’ spirit has endured for generations as Lochaber has kept lights ablaze and provided high quality metal for use across British industry.
“I’m very proud that the GFG Alliance is not only keeping that tradition going in Lochaber but is investing in staff, capacity and in downstream manufacturing. This is a very special place and it’s a privilege to be a part of its history. As we drive this project forward we have added forty people to our Fort William team.
“The model we see here – of renewable energy powering heavy industry – is at the very heart of GFG’s vision for the renewal and revival of foundation industries not just in Scotland but internationally. Our goal is for our steel businesses to be carbon neutral by 2030.”
The Lochaber smelter has long played an important part in the local community. Under GFG’s ownership, initiatives have included:
- An increase in employment by 26% to 237 roles
- 1,000 aluminium water bottles donated to the local high school under an “eliminate plastic” initiative
- Football strips donated to South Lochaber Thistle and sponsorship of the Balliemore Cup
- Subsidised tickets for residents for the soon-to-open Highland Cinema in Fort William
- Development of the JAHAMA Highland Estates to open access and build profitable local business like the new zip wire and our mountain biking events
- Development of further clean green power projects locally
Liberty has invested nearly £5 million in preparatory work for a downstream manufacturing plant in Fort William. Options under consideration include an automotive wheels plant or, in view of a downturn in UK car production, alternative industrial uses for the liquid aluminium produced in the Lochaber smelter – such as industrial extrusions or water bottles.
Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said: “You can’t fail but to be inspired by the scale of what is happening in Fort William using the natural and sustainable resources of the surrounding countryside. GFG’s commitment to the Scottish economy, investment in their surrounding communities and recycled metal production sets an incredible example for others to follow.”
Elsewhere in Scotland, GFG’s report outlines growing production from its Liberty Steel Dalzell plant at Motherwell, along with an increase in hydro-power generation at Kinlochleven and a doubling of tidal energy generation at the Meygen project off the Scottish coast.
During the period under review, GFG companies supported 400 school pupils in Lanarkshire to gain high-quality industrial work experience, provided or committed nearly £250K to Scottish charities and community projects and, through GFG’s Scottish cycle manufacturer, Shand, supplied the bike that took Scotswoman Jenny Graham around the world in a record time.
The document, which can be accessed on the GFG Alliance’s website highlights plans and studies in respect of further investment in Scotland including:
- A £154m windfarm at Glenshero in the Highlands
- Housing and real estate developments in Clydebridge and across Jahama Highland Estate
- A wind tower manufacturing operation in Scotland
- Prospects for a GREENSTEEL plant in Scotland, to be driven by an electric arc furnace