Lack of skilled labour slows billion dollar smelter upgrade in Kitimat, B.C.

KITIMAT, B.C. – Mega-projects across northern British Columbia and Alberta mean skilled labourers are almost as precious as the resources sought by mining giants such as Rio Tinto Alcan.

Company CEO Jacynthe Cote says difficulty finding the right workers has pushed Rio Tinto’s $3.3-billion aluminum smelter modernization project in Kitimat, B.C., off schedule and over budget.

Cote was in the northwestern B.C. city earlier this week to explain that the planned completion of the upgrade by late 2014 is now being reassessed.

She says Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) believes the first metal from the overhauled smelter will be produced in the first half of 2015, although she says the schedule remains under review.

Cote says the competitive labour market has also led to cost overruns, affecting the project’s bottom line.

Rio Tinto announced in 2011 that it would upgrade the aging Kitimat smelter, boosting its current aluminum production capacity by more than 48 per cent to approximately 420,000 tonnes per year. (CFTK)