OPINION: The case for subsidizing Quebec aluminum smelters gets harder and harder to make – by Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail – November 2, 2022)


Rio Tinto chief executive officer Jakob Stausholm last month had a downbeat message for the mining giant’s Canadian aluminum operations with prices for the lightweight metal plummeting by almost half since briefly hitting a record high earlier this year.

“It is actually very difficult to have a profitable aluminum industry in North America at this time because Russian aluminum is flowing in,” Mr. Stausholm told Bloomberg News. “Right now we have the lowest aluminum price this year and you would have thought the Russia-Ukraine crisis would have led to higher prices in aluminum.”

You read that right. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led Western countries to impose unprecedented sanctions on large swaths of the Russian economy, aluminum exports have been untouched by such measures. That has weighed on prices.

The situation could change, as the London Metal Exchange considers banning trading in Russian aluminum and U.S. President Joe Biden weighs blocking Russian aluminum imports. But for now, Russia’s ability to sell its aluminum in Europe and North America is a big reason prices for the metal have sunken like a stone in recent months.

For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-quebec-aluminum-smelter-subsidizing/