The UK mining sector is having a tough time like its global counterparts. However, there are some mining contractors and companies that are choosing a different path to diversify their portfolio so that they can tide over the downturn that the mining sector is experiencing.
Liberty British Aluminium is doing something similar. It is aiming to usher in a new industrial revolution in the Scottish Highlands by turning Fort William into an alloy wheel manufacturing hub.
The Alcan smelter of Fort William has faced a year of uncertainty. However, in November 2016, Liberty British Aluminium announced that SIMEC and Liberty House will be purchasing assets that were previously owned by Rio Tinto, the mining giant. The deal was sealed at £330 million, and Liberty British Aluminium hopes to manufacture close to 2 million alloy wheels a year at the facility.
The deal has also provided relief to the local community as it has safeguarded jobs of 170 employees. By December 2017, 300 direct jobs and 300 jobs in the supply chain will be created.
British Liberty Aluminium also stated that it would be making several other investments in the region to spur industrial operations. It anticipates that these new investments will create 1,000 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs over a period of ten years.
In 2016, about 1.7 million cars and around 300,000 commercial vehicles were manufactured in the UK. Presently, alloy wheels are imported as the UK does not have a large wheel manufacturing facility. However, Fort William will be transformed into a large-scale alloy wheel manufacturing hub. It will also give impetus to UK mining companies as the hub will require metals in large quantities.
Liberty British Aluminium believes that its new alloy wheel manufacturing hub will be able to displace up to 25 per cent of the wheels that are imported, and it will supply anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million wheels each year.