The local Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) and US-based Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) has started to release tenders for construction packages at its $7bn aluminium smelter project at Ras al-Zour, a source has told MEED.

“Bids are out for the earthworks at the moment, then it will be the concrete, then steel and so on,” the source says. “Everything is proceeding as planned.”

The US’s Bechtel Corporation, which was awarded the engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM) contract for the 740,000 tonnes-a-year (t/y) smelter project, in 2008 is expected to release documents for the main construction contracts in the first quarter of 2011.

The smelter is part of a $10.8bn aluminium complex that also includes the construction of a 1.8 million-t/y alumina refinery, a rolling mill with a capacity of up to 460,000-t/y and a 4 million-t/y bauxite mine.

The source in Saudi Arabia also says that the decision on who to award the EPCM contract for the $2bn alumina refinery has not yet been made, but only two bidders are still in the running.

“It’s between Bechtel and the joint venture involving [the US’s] Fluor and [Australia’s] WorleyParsons,” the source says. “There are meetings happening now that will resolve who will win it.”

“The decision will be made by the end of the month [April] or the start of next month [May].”

The alumina refinery was initially awarded to Fluor before the joint venture partners behind the project decided to retender in 2009.

Maaden holds a 74.9 per cent stake in the project, while Alcoa owns the remaining 25.1 per cent.