Construction work to build a US $5.6 billion (AED20.5 billion) aluminium project at Mesaieed in Qatar is more than 65% complete, with the plant set to open by the end of the year, say project bosses.

Qatalum, which when complete will be one of the largest aluminium plants in the world, is progressing according to schedule and despite the current economic downturn will be in a position to make a profit, the company says.

“The Qatalum project is progressing according to plans and the first aluminium will be produced in the fourth quarter of this year,” said Truls Gautesen, CEO of Qatalum, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and Norsk Hydro ASA.

Qatalum’s initial phase will have an annual capacity of 585,000 tonnes of primary aluminium, local media reported. But the project is due to reach its full capacity toward the second half of next year, when its annual production will rise to 1.2 million tonnes.

“Qatalum will still have a sound economy with the prices we see today. The project will have positive financial results,” Gautesen said.

Up to 17,000 construction workers are currently employed on the site, the majority of who live in the new Qatalum Construction Village in Mesaieed. This is a self-sustained village with its own power generation, sewage treatment plant and housing capacity.

Hassan Al Rashid, Qatalum Deputy CEO, said the company is currently recruiting and training employees for commissioning, start-up and operation phases. He said approximately 20% of the 40-strong management team are Qataris.

“We have a 5-Year Qatarisation plan. This is a big challenge, but we are committed to reach the 50 percent target,” he said.

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