The operators of the Fort William aluminium smelter have confirmed they are in negotiations to sell the plant.

The Rio Tinto-owned operation employs about 170 people and is one of the largest employers in the Lochaber area.

The plant, which is located next to Ben Nevis, is Rio Tinto's only operational aluminium smelter in the UK. It has been in existence for almost 90 years.

The mining and metals group announced in January that it was reviewing its operations there.

It told staff on Friday a sale was not automatic and that if a deal fell through, it would consider its options - including maintaining the status quo.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said that following a thorough review, they had advised employees that a sale provided the best potential for a long-term and sustainable future for the operations, its employees and the development of economic activities around Fort William.