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REPORTING · 20th March 2012
Walter McFarlane
Jacynthe Côté, Chief Executive for Rio Tinto Alcan was in Kitimat on March 8th and 9th to visit the smelter. Côté was not present for the official Notice to Proceed in December. Due to weather, her flight had been redirected.

“Not being able to come here in December was disappointing but it put to light the people that worked very hard, Paul [Henning], Michel [Lamarre], Jean [Simon], Colleen [Nyce], the team here. It was good. A lot of credit got the right place,” said Côté.

By coming later, she was able to spend a lot more time in the plant and the construction site. She also met with external stakeholders in the business community, the Haisla community and the community of Kitimat.

She stated they are well equipped to deliver the project, demolishing, building and modernizing the plant. They are working to build the project, safely, on budget and on schedule, and it will be a reflection of British Columbia.

She explained Alcan is spending 3.1 million dollars a day on this project. They have 400 people working on the project now and this will go up to 2000. 1400 people will be on site and in the camps, the rest are going to be in the community. So far 62% of the work has come from the communities in the Kitimat area.

She expected these percentages would go down, but numbers will stay the same. She explained a small community would not have the amount of trained people with the skills they need. However, they will continue to train people to do the work. This will be beneficial for the Region.

“It requires a lot of skills, a lot of structure, a lot of organization,” said Côté. “My message has been around working safely. That is by far the biggest priority. We all want the project to be one of the safest in the world. That means putting the right standards, the right expectations, the right ambitions right at the beginning.”

With other projects coming into the community, Côté explained they are trying to work so their project is almost completed while other projects are beginning. “I think we should be out of the way when others pick up. We could have built great capabilities which could be deployed,” said Côté.

Michel Lamarre, Director for the Kitimat Modernization Project, explained they expect to hit the maximum at the end of next year.

One of the other topics which was brought up was the labour negotiations. Côté stated she had a good discussion with the unions on the 8th. She said there was a good history of settling, however this was between the local management and union.

Côté also expressed the biggest challenge was safety in a workplace which changes by the hour. The goal of the project is for everyone who works on it to be able to get home safely so they could have supper with their families or to meet with their associates within the camp environment.

Building on time and under budget, they can do. The next challenge is training people familiar with the old smelter how to use the new one, as it will be different.

For an update on the work being done, Lamarre explained the utility is 80% complete. The demolition is slightly behind. The clean up is complete. The buildings will be demolished in the weeks to come. There will be relocation within the plant to keep the pot lines running. The target for first concrete is still June 1st. First Metal is targeted for the first half of 2014.

The final topic was what the modernization meant for the Haisla First Nations. Côté replied they are working to build a good relationship with the Haisla. Rio Tinto Alcan wants to keep the smelter open for another 50 years. They pride themselves on building relationships within communities.

Paul Henning, Vice President of Strategic Projects in Western Canada, expressed pride in the Legacy Agreement with the Haisla. It has enabled 100 Haisla First Nations people to receive work at entry level positions.