Hancock County

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

The Hancock County Judge-Executive says he feels “helpless” following the announcement that a major employer plans to sharply reduce operations in late October.

Century Aluminum announced Tuesday that it will idle its smelter in Hawesville unless there is a major rebound in the price of aluminum on the open market.

The smelter employs 565 people. In an email Wednesday, Century Aluminum Human Resources Manager Kenny Barkley said the company would keep “around a dozen” workers at the Hawesville plant if it’s idled this fall.

Hancock County Judge-Executive Jack McCaslin said there’s nothing anybody in the region can do about the market forces impacting the price of aluminum.

“It’s a commodity. Metals are just like soybeans and corn and everything else. So the markets dictate how much stuff is worth. I can’t change the markets.”


An aluminum manufacturer says it will invest $350 million to expand its facilities in Hancock County.

According to the Governor’s Office, the announcement Wednesday by Aleris Corporation is the largestsingle project investment in Kentucky in over a year. The expansion in Lewisport will include the additionof new technology that will help create parts for the automotive industry as it shifts to broader aluminum use to make lighter vehicles.

The 1.6 million-square-foot facility in Hancock County employs approximately 800 people.

Construction is set to begin this fall, and Aleris hopes to begin shipping automotive body sheet to customers by early 2017.

Domtar Paper Company

A paper company has announced plans to invest $20 million in its facility in Hancock County and retain 452 jobs. Domtar Paper Company LLC says it will upgrade and add equipment to its Hawesville operation.

Domtar operates 13 mills throughout the world, including its pulp and paper facility in northwestern Kentucky. The Hancock County plant makes an estimated 80,000 tons of market hardwood pulp—used for paper production—and about 600,000 tons of printing grade paper each year.

One of the changes at the plant will be a new conveyor system, which Domtar says will lower operating costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the facility.

Another western Kentucky aluminum smelter has given notice that it intends to shut down in a year because of increasing electric rates.

Media reported the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter in the Webster County town of Sebree gave notice Friday of its intention to follow the lead of Century Aluminum in Hawesville. Century filed its notice in August.

The notice from Rio Tinto Alcan comes as Big Rivers Electric Corp. seeks a substantial rate increase citing the impending loss of Century, its biggest customer.

Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman Kenny Barkley said Big Rivers is seeking a rate increase from $50 per megawatt now to $60 per megawatt, and that rate isn't sustainable. The smelter has 488 employees.

Preliminary findings from a study commissioned by lawmakers to help find a solution to a rate dispute between two western Kentucky aluminum smelters and a regional utility painted a grim outlook.

Hancock County leaders are trying to stay optimistic about the future of a major employer in their area. Century Aluminum smelter announced this week it has given Big Rivers Electric Cooperative a 12-month termination notice. That puts the smelter’s ability to operate in jeopardy.

An aluminum company operating a western Kentucky smelter has given notice to terminate its power contract with Big Rivers Electric Corp. The move signals that the nearly 700-employee smelter at Hawesville is in jeopardy.

A Hancock County aluminum smelter is warning it might have to shut down its 700-employee operation if it can't negotiate better electric rates. Century Aluminum and power producer Big Rivers Electric Corporation appear to be at an impasse in their efforts to find a solution.