Said to be the largest of its kind in Europe, the Aluminium Dunkerque smelter has a capacity of 270,000 tons of aluminum per year. It is powered by nuclear energy supplied by EDF.

A consultation process will now be launched by Rio Tinto with employees, relevant European works councils and other stakeholders in relation to the offer.

Upon satisfactory completion of these consultations, Rio Tinto expects to complete the sale of Aluminium Dunkerque in the second quarter of 2018.

Rio Tinto Aluminium CEO Alf Barrios said: “The binding offer for the sale of Aluminium Dunkerque represents the best option for the future development of the site while also delivering value for Rio Tinto as we continue to streamline our portfolio.”

The binding offer is part of GFG Alliance’s €2bn investment program in France.

GFG Alliance executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta said: “Our detailed analysis leads us to believe that Dunkerque is the best location to drive forward our downstream automotive strategy.

“Aluminium Dunkerque has a high-quality aluminum operation benefitting from a top-class workforce and management. This will be our key strength when embarking on our ambitious plans.”

The firm intends to develop the plant into an international centre of aluminum and downstream aluminum products expertise, demonstrating its GREENALUMINIUM strategy.

Gupta added: “This investment will help fulfill our ambitions in the sector, further enabling us to capitalize fully on expected growth in demand for aluminum over the coming years.”

In December 2016, Liberty House acquired Rio Tinto’s Lochaber Smelter and assets in Scotland, including plans for the modernization of the site.

Image: The Dunkerque aluminum smelter in Dunkirk, France. Photo: courtesy of GFG Alliance.