Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden) is retendering a $1bn construction contract for a 1.6-million-tonne-a-year alumina  refinery, after appointing a new partner to provide technology for the facility.

The refinery will produce alumina (aluminium oxide), the raw material from which aluminium is smelted, from the mineral bauxite.

Maaden originally awarded the engineering, procurement, construction and management contract for the refinery project to the US’ Fluor Corporation in late 2008.

However, Maaden decided to retender the deal in Oct-ober 2009 (MEED 2:3:09), following the withdrawal of UK/Australian consortium Rio Tinto Alcan as its technology partner in December 2008.

It has since awarded the technology deal to Canada’s Hatch.

At least five firms, including Fluor, have been invited by Maaden to submit bids for the new contract for the alumina refinery by the 15 December deadline. An award is expected in the first quarter of 2010 and the construction work is expected to last for 30 months.

In April, it emerged that Maaden would split the $10bn aluminium project into two smaller phases to help it secure financing. It will first develop a power plant and aluminium smelter at Ras al-Zour. This will begin operating with alumina bought on the open market.

The alumina refinery will form part of a second phase, along with the development of a bauxite mine at Zubairah in Qassim province to feed the smelter in the long term.