South African aluminium manufacturing company Hulamin is seeking to expand its domestic beneficiation activities and remains focused on securing supply of aluminium slab, a spokesman told Metal Bulletin.

The aluminium manufacturer has a strategy to expand its domestic beneficiation activities over the next five years, Johannes van Niekerk, spokesman for Hulamin, said in response to questions about whether it was looking to buy BHP Billiton’s Bayside aluminium smelter.

He did not explicitly rule out the possibility that the company might buy Bayside, but said, “It would be premature for us to give commentary [on the possibility to buy Bayside].”

“But it is no secret that we review our strategy every six months as to how we can keep our slab supply secure. To our shareholders we have an obligation to ensure that we source our supply as effectively as we can.”

At the moment, the company exports roughly 70% of its products, mainly high-quality extruded and rolled aluminium.

A National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) representative said that Hulamin is looking at buying Bayside, according to a Bloomberg report on January 20. The union has members at Hulamin and BHP’s aluminium smelters.

Last week, Hulamin issued a cautionary statement, saying that it had initiated negotiations with BHP over the future of aluminium slab supply from Bayside, where BHP has initiated consultation with its employees to possibly shut down smelter activity at the Bayside plant.

The closure of Bayside would also have significant effect on other downstream activities in South Africa, among these the automotive industry.

Among the costs that BHP is grappling with at its smelter operations are electricity tariffs. The Richards Bay smelters, along with BHP’s Mozal operations in Mozambique are collectively responsible for 9% of South Africa’s total electricity demand.

Bianca Markram