The complex on the Gulf coast was originally due to be developed by Maaden in partnership with Canadian aluminium giant Alcan. However, Alcan was taken over in 2007 by Rio Tinto, which still has to sign a final formal partnership agreement, thereby holding up the contract awards.

“We have signed a heads of agreement with Rio Tinto and are working on the details for the joint venture, which will hopefully be ready between September and October,” says Abdallah Dabbagh, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Maaden.

“We are working on the marketing details and putting the final touches to a document. We expect awards [on the three contracts] to be made in the next three months. They are likely to be made close to the joint venture announcement.”

The contracts cover the alumina refinery, the aluminium smelter and the associated captive power plant. Two firms, Canada’s SNC Lavalin and the US’ Bechtel, are competing for the contract covering the 720,000 tonne-a-year (t/y) smelter. The same two firms and the US’ Fluor Corporation are bidding for the 1.4 million-t/y alumina refinery (MEED 15:2:08).

Two groups led by China Harbour Engineering Company and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries have submitted bids for the power plant.