The Australian Institute of Progress has raised significant concerns regarding the future of the alumina/aluminium industry in Gladstone. This follows the recent closure of the Kwinana alumina refinery in Western Australia, which the Institute attributes partly to Australian and Queensland Government greenhouse policies.
Graham Young, Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Progress, emphasized that the increase in power prices in Western Australia, particularly for energy-intensive products like alumina, played a major role in the refinery’s closure. Similar threats loom over Rio Tinto’s alumina refining and aluminium smelting operations in Gladstone.
The decarbonisation strategies and their implementation timelines are a point of contention. The Boyne Island alumina refinery in Gladstone has reportedly been written off, with significant impairments made against other local facilities. Rio Tinto’s CEO, Jacob Stausholm, has indicated the challenges in finding viable decarbonisation solutions by 2030.
The alumina industry is a significant contributor to the Gladstone economy, responsible for 16% of jobs in the region and substantial value-add. The potential closure of this industry could have profound economic and social impacts on the community.
The Queensland Government’s recent announcement of more ambitious decarbonisation targets and the legislative push for these changes have sparked further debate. The current energy transition strategy, focusing on renewables without sufficient firming capacity, is seen as insufficient to meet the high energy demands of the industry. Alternatives like gas and nuclear power are discussed, but face their own challenges and limitations.