On January 1, 2012, Rio Tinto Alcan said it would begin an orderly shutdown of 144 out of the plant's 432 reduction cells. The company will now begin the process of shutting down an additional 144 cells, leaving one-third of the Alma smelter's capacity in operation.

It said plans are in place to ensure its aluminium operations throughout the region continue to run safely and efficiently.

Rio Tinto Alcan initiated a lockout at the Alma smelter after the Syndicat des travailleurs de l'aluminium d'Alma (Alma aluminium workers' union) rejected the company's final proposal for an agreement. Rio Tinto Alcan had been bargaining with the union since October 4, 2011.

The Syndicat des travailleurs de l'aluminium d'Alma represents 755 employees at the plant, including 674 hourly workers, 25 office personnel and 56 workers at the pot relining centre.