Alcoa Point Henry Smelter
Located on Point Henry at the entrance of Corio Bay to the west of the city centre is the giant manufacturing site of Alcoa. This multinational owned aluminium smelter was constructed in the early 1960’s and smelted their first aluminium in 1962. In the five decades that followed the plant has grown considerably in size and capability. Due to international pressures of cost and supply of aluminium the company announced in February of 2014 that it had decided to close the plant by the end of 2014.
When the plant was operating at its peak it was able to smelt over 190,000 tons of aluminium per year, producing around a quarter of Australia’s aluminium. The complex was also home to a huge aluminium rolling factory where aluminium sheet was produced, with much of the product ending up being used for beverage cans. Some 800 employees worked at Alcoa, around 500 working in the smelter and the remainder in the rolled facilities.
The plant was a major user of electricity and sourced around 40% of their enormous power load from their own coal driven electric generator on the outskirts of our surf township of Anglesea, south west of Geelong. The Anglesea power plant was built in 1969 near a coal mine that had been producing coal for the Geelong B power plant in North Shore since 1960.
Origionally there were plans to keep the power station at Anglesea running past the point that Aluminium production stops. The power plant could have run as a stand-alone facility and one day could see its power resold to the state’s electricity grid. Alcoa signed a 50 year lease extension on the coal mine in 2011, so Alcoa were keen to find a buyer for the plant. Ultimately no buyer was found and after 46 years of operation, Alcoa made the decision to permanently stop operations at the Anglesea Mine and Power Station in August 2015.
Being a 1960’s brown coal plant, the large lobby group based around the seaside township who wanted the facility to close over environmental issues could not have been happier with the decision. Alcoa states they are now planning for the rehabilitation and closure of the mine site, and the decommissioning and remediation of the power station complex while the decommissioning and rehabilitation of the Point Henry site has already begun.