On July 26, Rio Tinto began reducing production at its BC Works aluminum smelter in Kitimat, Canada, due to a strike initiated by the Unifor Local 2301 union after negotiations failed to reach a new collective labor agreement. Production will be reduced to around 35% of the smeltear’s 432,000-metric-ton annual capacity, so it can safely be operated by staff and employees required under an essential services order granted by the British Columbia Labor Relations Board, according to the company.

“Reducing production will have a significant impact on the business and community, but we are committed to taking the necessary steps to operate safely with a reduced workforce,” Rio Tinto Aluminum Managing Director of Atlantic Operations Samir Cairae said.

Cairae said the company has made “every effort” to reach an agreement with the union over the last seven weeks, including proposing an independent mediator, which he said the union rejected.

“We will continue to look for longer term solutions with the union and work closely with customers and suppliers to minimize disruptions,” he added.

A reduced workforce is also in place to ensure the Kemano hydro-power facility continues to run safely.

Rio Tinto employs approximately 1,050 people at the BC Works smelter and Kemano powerhouse, including around 900 employees represented by Unifor Local 2301. The company contributed C$780 million to the economy of British Columbia in 2020.