Commentary: The Challenges Are Real, But the US Aluminum Industry Can Still Thrive – by Heidi Brock (Metal Miner – December 3, 2015)

Heidi Brock is the President & CEO of the Aluminum Association, based in Arlington, Va.

Like many industries in the global commodities sector, 2015 has been a bit of a roller-coaster for the North American aluminum industry. From highs, such as the release of the aluminum-intensive Ford F-150, to lows like the announced curtailment of some domestic production, this has unquestionably been a year of ups and downs.

However, some recent chatter and reporting suggesting a “collapse” of the US aluminum business, framing ours as an industry “fighting for its life,” are overblown, misjudged and simply incorrect.

It’s time to take a deep breath, tone down the rhetoric and look at the hard facts.

The Facts

It is absolutely true that this is an extremely challenging time for parts of the domestic and global aluminum industry — particularly in the upstream segment of the business. The recently announced curtailments of US smelting capacity have real-world consequences on hardworking families and rural communities.

But, let’s keep a couple of things in mind. First, a curtailment is not a closure. In better market conditions, these cutrailed smelters could be brought right back into production.

Second, we’re working together as an industry to do everything we can — improving trade conditions, supporting transparency in the financial trading of aluminum, promoting common-sense regulations — to create an environment where these smelters can reopen.

Despite these obvious challenges, what’s also important to remember is that many parts of the domestic aluminum industry are as healthy — or healthier — than they’ve ever been. Let’s start with the fundamentals.

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