Saudi Arabia’s Maaden aluminum smelter cut production on operating issues

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Saudi Arabian Mining Co. reduced production at the aluminum smelter it owns with Alcoa Corp. after experiencing operational problems, but is now ramping output back up, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

Maaden, as the Gulf’s largest mining company is known, took some of its potlines offline as it encountered quality-control issues and looked to stabilize the plant, CEO Robert Wilt said in an interview in Riyadh Wednesday. He referred to “high anode effects,” which can lower the grade of aluminum by inserting unwanted impurities.

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No customers will be affected, Wilt said, declining to explain further. He didn’t say how much production had been affected.

“I don’t anticipate it affecting our budget,” Wilt said when asked about the financial effect of the smelter problems.

The setback comes as traders and investors watch for signs that China’s loosening of Covid restrictions will boost metals demand.

At the same time, aluminum production outside of China is constrained after European smelters cut capacity because of high energy prices, and exchange inventories are near multidecade lows.

The massive Saudi Arabia aluminum complex — which includes the smelter, a mine, an alumina refinery and a rolling mill — is 75 percent owned by Maaden and 25 percent by Alcoa.

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