Century Aluminum to Close Ravenswood Plant, 651 Jobs Affected

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RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Century Aluminum announced Wednesday that it is closing its plant in Ravenswood, leaving 651 workers out of a job.

All of the layoffs are expected to be completed by February 20.

In a news release from the company, it planned to shut down the plan unless the selling price for aluminum stabilized and the company was able to reduce costs materially to reduce monthly losses.

"We deeply regret the impact of this action on our loyal employees and on the surrounding communities," said Ravenswood plant manager Jim Chapman. "The Ravenswood smelter has been an integral part of western West Virginia's economy and culture for over 50 years. This action, while unfortunate, was not taken lightly."

The Ravenswood smelter was constructed in 1957 and employs 679 people at full capacity.

Century Aluminum says the orderly curtailment of the plant's remaining three potlines will begin immediately, but says the plant will be carefully maintained to allow for the possibility of reopening, if justified by market conditions.

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is holding a news conference Thursday at 10 a.m. to discuss Century's announcement. He has asked local leaders in Ravenswood and lawmakers to join him.

United States Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) released the following statement from Washington, D.C.

“Century Aluminum has been a big part of so many lives. Generations of hard-working people have made the plant a true fixture in the community, and they have given it a proud history that spans more than 50 years. I am incredibly disappointed by the news of Century’s closing. I know the toll this will undoubtedly take on hundreds of employees and their families, the entire Jackson County community, and the local economy.

    “I have been working extremely closely with Governor Manchin and the state, Century officials, the suppliers, and the workers and labor union over these past weeks to identify possible solutions. Everyone brought a serious and genuine commitment to the table. Sadly, the conditions of the world aluminum market don’t allow for a workable solution for Century at this point. Those conditions are impacting other aluminum-based companies, like Precision Coil in Clarksburg, as well. As we work in Congress on ways to get our economy back on a strong footing and create new jobs, I stand ready to help in any way I can as the workers and community deal with the effects of this devastating crisis at home. And I’m committed to working with the state to do everything we can to bring opportunities for productive jobs.”

Gov. Joe Manchin (D) today released the following statement about the closure of Century Aluminum:

    “I am truly saddened by today’s news. All the stakeholders involved – our Congressional delegation, local officials, the union, Century and its suppliers -- did everything humanly possible to save this plant.

    “We all worked together in a gallant effort but we could not overcome the worldwide aluminum market conditions, which forced the company to make this decision.

    “The company has promised to keep the plant in good condition so that if the market returns, there is the possibility of reopening. We continue our commitment to work tirelessly to bring any possible opportunities to the plant, and we will work closely with Century to make sure those opportunities can be realized.

    “Our WORKFORCE WV team is prepared to help Century’s employees with training and other assistance to get them back to work as soon as possible.”

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) released this statement Wednesday afternoon:

    “I am deeply saddened to learn of the decision by Century Aluminum officials to close the Ravenswood plant, despite our best efforts. This decision marks a dark day for working families in Jackson County and the surrounding area. As this debilitating national and global recession continues to cost thousands of American jobs each day, and as more unemployed workers exhaust their health benefits, there should be no disagreement that the passage of a bold and effective economic stimulus plan is essential.”

    “The stimulus plan being debated in the Senate now includes $3.2 million for West Virginia to help match unemployed workers with new job opportunities, and another $10.6 million for new job training programs. West Virginia would also receive an additional $33 million in unemployment insurance payments under the package on the Senate floor. Working families like those in Jackson County, and all across the country, need this stimulus package quickly. Congress must do its utmost to get this vital assistance to the President’s desk quickly.”

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