Refinery rolls on after 50 years

The Alcoa Kwinana Refinery as it looks today.
The Alcoa Kwinana Refinery as it looks today.

This month the Alcoa Kwinana Refinery produced its 75,000,000th tonne of alumina, coinciding with last month’s 50th anniversary since the plant began operation.

The refinery opened in 1963 and was the company’s first operations in Australia, with alumina produced at the plant sent to its Point Henry Smelter and turned into aluminium ingots.

It helped establish the town and now City of Kwinana, with many people moving to the region to work at Alcoa and BP Refinery and still employs 900 people.

However it has often drawn criticism from some residents and environmental campaigners over air pollution and its tailing areas in Hope Valley/Mandogalup.

Refinery manager Tim Maclean said it had marked some significant milestones this month.

‘This is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the many talented and dedicated people that have worked at the refinery throughout history,’ he said.

Mr Maclean said the refinery had not only contributed to the prosperity of the country and WA but brought jobs and prosperity to Kwinana and nearby suburbs.

South Metropolitan Region Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren said she hoped Alcoa would use the 50th anniversary to reduce the refinery’s environmental impacts on the community.

Ms MacLaren said there had long been concerns about general industry air pollution and the Mandogalup tailings effects on nearby residents.

Kwinana Industries Council director Chris Oughton said while industry in general had faced local opposition over the years and some criticism was valid decades ago, it was not any more.

‘Industry is vastly different now to what it was then,’ he said.

‘There are many billions of dollars ploughed back into the state annually because of industry, so there are a lot of individual workers and their families, as well as businesses, and then there are the community grants that have been put back as well.’

Mr Oughton said the refinery was the equivalent of an ‘anchor tenant’ for the industrial area, bringing many other businesses to what has become WA’s largest industrial precinct.

‘While the refinery wasn’t the first to operate in the Kwinana Industrial Area, its construction was one of the key triggers for the expansion of industrial activity in the area,’ he said.