The Globe and Mail reported on November 7, 2011 the need for Québec’s aluminum corridor to shift from being only a main source of primary aluminum production, 90 percent of the Canadian industry, to developing higher-margin aluminum products that can be designed and manufactured in Québec.
MONTREAL, November 10, 2011 – The article cited Canada’s production of 2.9-million tons of aluminum last year, with 80 percent of that exported. The reported that Canadian Aluminum Association members Rio Tinto Alcan, Alcoa Canada and Aluminerie Alouette plan to invest a combined total of $7 to $10 billion over the next decade to expand their facilities and produce innovative products, including research and development, public-private partnerships, and forming a consortium for prototype development of aluminum-intensive projects for transportation.
The design/build engineering firm MAADI Group of Montreal creates innovative aluminum designs for infrastructure projects locally and globally. MAADI Group president and CEO Alexandre de la Chevrotière, commenting for the Globe article, said that government regulations currently limit aluminum use in construction and infrastructure projects, which blocks aluminum innovation and manufacturing in the region. “It is incredible that the provincial bidding process for infrastructure excludes the use of aluminum as a construction material,” de la Chevrotière told the Globe, “The Quebec government pushes the big aluminum producers to create jobs in the transformation sector, yet they shut out aluminum when they put out tenders,” he noted.
Europe’s attitude toward aluminum is very different according to de la Chevrotière, where 30 percent of construction projects use aluminum in structural applications. The article cited aluminum industry analyst Lloyd O’Carroll of Davenport & Co. LLC in Virginia, who noted that Québec aluminum companies have a competitive advantage in the industry due to easy access to hydro-electric power to run their smelting operations, but that setting up value-added facilities in Québec is challenging, with high shipping costs to send fabricated aluminum components to manufacturing centers such as Detroit.
The Globe article detailed plans by the big three Québec aluminum companies to improve efficiency and technology at their facilities, and reported that Québec’s Minister for Economic Development, Sam Hamad, is working with the government on a plan for a new aluminum transformation policy, which will be completed over the next few months.