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Tycoon Gupta to invest millions in Highlands smelter

Fergus Ewing TwitterMetals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta is today expected to unveil a substantial investment in Britain’s last aluminium smelter – safeguarding jobs in the Scottish Highlands.

Mr Gupta’s Liberty House and his father’s Simec business will pay £330m to buy and upgrade the plant in Lochaber, together with two hydro-electric plants that power it. It will be renamed British Liberty British Aluminium.

The sale of the smelter, which has a capacity of 47,000 tonnes,is part of Rio Tinto’s plan to dispose of non-core assets.

Mr Gupta is planning to set up an aluminium wheel manufacturing facility and invest a further £120m.

The deal will be confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing (pictured) during a visit to the plant. It will protect 170 jobs and create a further 300 roles.

Ms Sturgeon will say: “GFG Alliance’s buyout of the complex will protect 170 existing jobs and with ambitious plans to invest in the site, expand operations and add value, we look forward to hundreds of new jobs being created in the coming years.

“The Scottish Government is supporting GFG by guaranteeing the power purchases of the aluminium smelter, which reinforces the essential link between the smelter and hydro station at Fort William and provides a firm foundation for GFG’s ambitious expansion plans.

“Today is the start of an exciting new chapter in Scotland’s manufacturing story and the Scottish Government and its agencies will keep working with Sanjeev Gupta and the GFG Alliance to help them realise their enterprising vision for Lochaber.”

The Guptas believe the investment will generate up to 2,000 jobs in the supply chain and add £1 billion to the local economy over ten years.

Their plans are part of a wider plan to build a sustainable engineering sector in the UK.

Liberty already supplies to British car manufacturing sector and has acquired steel plants from Tata, including the mills in Lanarkshire.

Mr Gupta said: “We hope this will come to be recognised as the start of a bright new future for Highland industry.

“It puts Lochaber at the heart of our vision for sustainable and integrated local production that can revitalise British manufacturing.”

The plant is one of the largest employers in the area, supporting more than 160 full-time jobs — around a quarter of them managers and technical specialists.

The Scottish government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have worked with the company to determine its future.

The smelter, which opened in 1929, is Rio Tinto’s only operational site in the UK and gets its power from two hydro-electric schemes — one in Fort William and the other at nearby Kinlochleven. A second Scottish smelter, at Kinlochleven, was closed in 2000).

When Rio Tinto Alcan closed its smelter in Lynemouth (Northumberland) in 2012, it was seen as a “significant challenge” for the sole remaining UK plant in Lochaber.\


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