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Century Aluminum starts shutdown process, set to begin layoffs Christmas week

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

A representative with Century Aluminum says the plant started the process of shutting down Monday.

According to the representative, officials at the Berkeley County aluminum plant are shutting one of two molten aluminum-producing potlines down, a task they say should be completed by Tuesday morning.

"During the week of Christmas, we will unfortunately begin to lay off some of our workforce," the representative says.

In October, officials at the plant said they would have to close their doors unless they could agree on a new contract with Santee Cooper that would help them stay open. 

Power utility Santee Cooper rejected a request to allow Century Aluminum to buy cheaper power from out of state in a meeting last month.

According to officials, the Century Aluminum center offered to pay Santee Cooper about $60 million in transmission fees over the next five years so the smelter can buy the cheaper power elsewhere.  

Santee Cooper maintained that other customers would have to foot the bill if they granted Century Aluminum's wish. 

There was a Berkeley County legislative delegation meeting Monday evening. Following the meeting Santee Cooper released the following statement: 

The Berkeley County legislative delegation met at Santee Cooper’s headquarters today at 5 p.m. Santee Cooper’s president and CEO and members of Executive Leadership met with the delegation regarding Century Aluminum's Mt. Holly plant. It was a good discussion, and Santee Cooper confirmed our willingness to extend essentially the same terms of Century's current power contract for Mt. Holly for three years, with an option for Century to cancel the contract after six months. Santee Cooper has had that same basic offer on the table to Century for some time.

Santee Cooper appreciates the legislators’ willingness to get involved. Santee Cooper does not want to lose the Mt. Holly plant, but we cannot offer more than we already have. Anything else would increase costs to our other customers, which is not fair to these other customers and also violates provisions in our enabling legislation. As a state agency, Santee Cooper does not make a profit and so any additional concessions to Century would be borne by our other customers.

If the legislature wishes to address relief measures for Century, the six-month-out provision in our contract offer would give Century the ability to continue operations through the 2016 legislative session. Santee Cooper applauds this legislative outreach to Century and again urges Century's leadership to take the offer.

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