A commercial court in France on Thursday handed control of Alteo, a global leader in specialty alumina, to Guinea-based logistics specialist United Mining Supply (UMS).

UMS was the last remaining candidate to take over Alteo’s production site near the southern city of Marseille, a year after it entered bankruptcy proceedings because of falling orders against the backdrop of a global crisis in the aluminium industry.

Alumina is smelted to produce aluminium metal, but is also used as a raw material for ceramics and consumer products such as smartphone screens.

Alumina is smelted to produce aluminium metal, but is also used as a raw material for ceramics and consumer products such as smartphone screens

The court said UMS’s financial support as a new shareholder in Alteo Holding would allow the plant to free up enough cashflow to carry on.

UMS, owned by French-Lebanese-Guinean businessman Fadi Wazni, will take on part of Alteo’s debt and phase out the import of bauxite, a raw material for aluminium production, within 12 to 18 months because of its environmental impact.

Alteo imports its bauxite mainly from Guinea, a major producer of the rock, which has a high aluminium content. 

After refining, the factory has been stocking bauxite residue outdoors, prompting complaints from local residents about air and water pollution.

The company has been accused of dumping polluted production residue, known as “red mud”, into the Mediterranean.

Its former owners Rio Tinto, the Australian-based global mining giant, has committed to cleaning up the site, with the cost estimated at up to €30 million, according to UMS.

In addition its own workforce of 500, which UMS plans to cut by 98, the Alteo factory also supports 400 jobs, including subcontractors and service providers, making it one of the biggest employers in the Aix-en-Provence region.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us