Memories from an Industrial Age



Memories from an Industrial Age
Memories from an
Industrial Age
Brief History................ 6
Human Resources....... 8
Health and Safety....... 14
Carbon Plant.............. 21
Potrooms.................... 36
Casthouse................... 50
Maintenance.............. 62
Supply......................... 68
Finance...................... 70
Union (AWU)............. 72
Geoff Wellard (Casthouse), David Beach (Carbon Plant), Richard Brown (Potroom), Eyvind Roneid (Finance),
Leanne Pringle (Supply), Alex Fry (HSE), Jorn Skaar (Technology), Barry Arens (Assets and Technical Support), Trevor
Hall (HR)
This document was produced by Hydro
Aluminium to mark the closure of the
Kurri Kurri smelter. The management of
the company would like to thank everyone who contributed to this publication.
In 2002, when Hydro acquired VAW including the Kurri Kurri smelter,
we inherited a business with a long and proud history. The smelter
soon became an important part of the Hydro Aluminium supply chain
opening up new markets in Australia, New Zealand and South East
Asia. Capitalising on this, Hydro embarked on a program to further
improve the Kurri business with good results in employee relations,
safety performance, operational efficiency, product quality and in recent years, cost control. Hydro has supported this improvement with
substantial investment in the plant, most recently the $77M switchyard upgrade project which was commissioned earlier this year.
In light of these improvements, the decision to shut down operations
at Kurri Kurri was not taken lightly. Hydro has absorbed local losses
from the Kurri smelter for a number of years, trusting that operational
improvement and cost cutting would keep the business viable into
the future. Despite these improvements, Kurri’s lack of profitability
caused by the combination of high exchange rates and low LME aluminium prices was not forecast to substantially improve in the short
to medium term. Further complicating the future outlook was the
introduction of new taxes and power supply uncertainty. This meant
that the plant could no longer be sustained.
Egil Fredriksen
Chief Executive Officer
During difficult times, such as the closure of a plant, we rely heavily
on our values to guide us through. The concept of respect for our employees, suppliers, customers, the local community and the environment has been of utmost importance. We remain proud that despite
the negative situation of plant closure that we can provide so much
assistance to help our colleagues transition towards a positive future
after Hydro.
I would like to thank the Kurri workforce for their contribution to Hydro
and wish you all success in your future endeavours.
June ‘68
In 1936, ALCAN (Aluminium Company of Canada),
BACO (British Aluminium Company and Electrolytic Zinc
Company) established the Australian Aluminium Company
Pty. Ltd. (Australuco). Australuco was a fabrication company sourcing its aluminium from Comalco, Alcoa and Alcan.
Comalco (Commonwealth Aluminium Company)
acquired the Government owned Bell Bay Smelter in Tasmania and Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) commissioned a smelter at Point Henry NSW. Thus, Alcoa and
Comalco became local fully integrated aluminium companies (bauxite to semi-fab aluminium).
In April 1963, the Australian Government imposed a
complete embargo on metal imports. This embargo continued until the domestic smelting industry maintained supply. This meant that Australuco could no longer be an outlet
for Alcan metal and dependant on its local integrated competitors for supply.
In 1965, Australuco took the decision to build its
own smelter thereby preserving Alcan’s investment in
Australia. During 1967, Alcan, by buying BACO shares, increased its ownership of Australuco to 70% and changed
its name to AlcanAust. The remaining 30% was owned by
Australian investors.
Investigations settled on the Newcastle region as
the best option with Salamander Bay and Kurri Kurri as the
two possible sites.
Eventually Kurri Kurri was selected with the following advantages.
1) Kurri Kurri could use Kooragang Island while port facilities would have to be constructed at Salamnder Bay.
2) Operating costs at Salamander Bay would be slightly
higher than at Kurri Kurri.
3) Perceived pollution problems with the oyster industry at
Salamander were unresolved.
4) Kurri Kurri was closer to Newcastle and Granville (AlcanAust down stream division).
5) Kurri Kurri offered better labour availability.
In 1969, the Kurri Kurri smelter started production
at 2,300 M.T.P.A. reaching 45,500 M.T.P.A. with the first potline at full capacity in 1973.
February ‘78
... a brief history
The smelter was expanded with a second potline
reaching capacity of 90,000 M.T.P.A. in 1980.
The third potline reached full production during 1986, taking
the smelter’s capacity to 150,000 M.T.P.A.
Since then, modernization, technological changes and optimization brought the smelter capacity to over
180,000 metric tonnes.
In 1995, Alcan International divested its holdings in
AlcanAust and the wholly Australian owned company became Capral Aluminium. Realising that it could not support
the capital required to maintain a smelter, Capral decided
to sell the smelter and in 2000, the smelter became part of
VAW (German Aluminium Company).
Norsk Hydro bought VAW from the parent company and the smelter became part of Norsk Hydro, known as
Hydro Aluminium Kurri Kurri Pty Ltd in 2002.
In November 2009, the smelter celebrated its 40th
anniversary with an open day where employees and their
families were taken on guided tours of the plant and attended a video presentation of the plant’s business and history.
Hot metal production in the potlines ceased on September 7 2012.
October ‘09
For many years, we were what you would call a traditional
HR department, though we did have a stronger voice
at the management team level than you’d see in many
organisations. Also, the CEOs that I worked under (Harald
Bentzen, Alberto Fabrini and Egil Fredriksen) used me as a
strategic discussion partner. That was a great honour and
gave much needed credibility to the HR team.
The period that we call ‘fight for survival’, which was
January to May 2012, was the toughest. It was inevitable
that we would lose talent, especially those who did not
have a big redundancy cheque to hang around for. In
those times, you have to do your best to hang onto people
- encourage them to stay - but it’s also very important not
to mislead people and paint a rosier picture of the future
than is realistic. Every day was a high wire balancing act
in this respect – trying to keep the spirits up whilst being
realistic about what the future may hold.
Eventually, word came through that the plant was to
close. The fight for survival had been a noble one but
one that we had no chance to win. The strength of the
Australian dollar against the greenback, coupled with the
low LME price tolled the bell. A glance into the future
involved giving consideration to the fact that we had no
power contract beyond 2017 and we faced increased
costs through higher raw material prices, through the
renewable energy tax and through an impending carbon
tax. The future offered little hope of a turnaround. The
company had been suffering losses pretty much for two
years and the workforce had responded magnificently
to the call to arms, to stem the tide. It wasn’t enough
though, and we set about organising for closure.
Under such circumstances, the spotlight tends to fall on
HR, much brighter than it ever has done before. Suddenly,
we had to organise a communications campaign that aims
to cover all the bases; meet and manage the interface with
key stakeholders in the community such as politicians and
business leaders; develop a step-by-step process in which
all the essential jobs get done – and everyone knows who
needs to do what by when. Most of all, we needed to
start taking care of alarmed employees, and remind them
that through this tough process, we needed to ‘up the
ante’ when it comes to safety.
Trevor Hall
There’s a lot to be
said for leaving
a place spick and
span, the way we
found it, with a
proud record of zero
The message that needed to be delivered over and
over again was that this was the time when attention
and focus can waver. This was the time when the mind
easily wanders off to addressing questions about paying
the mortgage, being interviewed, stepping out into the
world of the unemployed. It’s scary stuff for everyone
but the last thing we needed was a serious injury, or
worse, a fatality. There’s a lot to be said for leaving a
place spick and span, the way we found it, with a proud
record of zero fatalities.
The HR team had already been off-site and worked on
developing the organisation in the future by answering
two key questions : what are the tasks, activities and
team structure if we get a green light to run the plant?
And what are they if we get a red light to close it? So we
had a process already sketched out and thus we needed
to fly into action.
I was lucky enough to study a subject called Appreciative
Inquiry under Professor Ron Fry and Dr David Cooperrider
at the Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland,
Ohio. AI, as it’s known, is the cooperative search for
the best in people, their organisations and the world
around them. It’s a positive, strength-based approach
to work and living, and in this context, we are taught
to ask the unconditional positive question. I asked it.
“Given these ugly circumstances, what is the best that
we can do for redundant people?” A union official had
written of the effect of the closure announcement,
saying that it would bring (and I quote), “depression,
relationship separations, divorces, household problems,
even suicide.”
The taking of an appreciative view involves rejecting this
notion and instead focuses our attention on answering
‘what is the best that can happen’? When we start to
imagine, even dream, of possibility, of hope, of
ambition, of joy and the excitement of the unknown,
we ‘re-frame’ the dilemma and the world starts to
take on a different hue.
I remember one important HR meeting though, some
few days after we’d received the ‘red light’ decision
and it had had some time to settle in. The mood was
pretty much doom and gloom and the question was
‘what do we do now’? Out of the conversations we
had, it was clear to me that a desire started to emerge,
and if I put it into words, it was “to create a superlative
and caring exit experience for redundant employees.”
In other words, we wanted to move to action to
support employees, not only as they had never been
supported before, but to have them leave saying that
even in the worst of times, this was a great company to
work for, in fact, the best. The ‘death and depression’
article remained a key motivator throughout. No way
was there going to be any loss of life or spirit if we had
anything to do with it.
The wife of one of our employees wrote to Pathways,
the company we employed to help with outsourcing
– the creation of a résumé and a strategy for securing
a job. She described how her husband had been
low in spirit when he went for his first meeting with
the Pathways’ consultant. She wrote that on leaving
though, he stood taller, proud and a little amazed at
what his years in Hydro were now worth on the job
market. He now had a better appreciation of his
knowledge in safety and in continuous improvement
techniques. His value of himself – his self-worth – had
risen dramatically and she was grateful. She said that
what had started as a nightmare was now turning into
an adventure. This is powerful stuff - to re-frame the
experience so quickly says much about their attitude
to life and their relationship.
Dr. Deon Viljoen, Pat Guilfoyle
(Chaplin) & Ian Johns (Credit
Back Row: Doug Perry, Joe Kuszynski, Cheryl Fall, Ian Stevens, Ron Roach, Trevor Hall
Front Row: Jill Williams, Belinda Lantry, Robyn Keegan & Donna Stephen
We discussed with the Australian Workers Union the
possibility of capturing this type of spirit in the Kurri
Kurri smelter, in photograph, image and the written
word. The AWU was fully supportive and several
members enthusiastically threw themselves at the
task of creating this book. Even though I have only
worked here for five years, I have come to appreciate
the tremendous importance that our workforce, as a
community, places upon the history and the cultural
heritage of the smelter. I have heard the myths and
the legends passed from generation to generation
– a practice human beings have done since time
immemorial. For many people, it’s the end of an era
and to capture the sense of mateship, loyalty and
community that we have, was a must. People who
started here thirty years ago speak of the friendliness
of the workers on their first day, something that has
carried through until the very end. This publication is
a humble effort to show the world what it was like to
work here, an attempt to portray the living spirit of an
organisation long after its demise. Thank you for taking
the time to have a read and a browse.
People who started
here thirty years
ago speak of the
friendliness of
the workers on
their first day,
something that has
carried through
until the very end.
Hydro and the Department of Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations conducted a “Job Market” day on July
18. A large marquee with booths was erected on the smelter
parkland and a total of 6,500 genuine vacancies were represented by 63 employers and employment agencies.
The market was formally opened by Jack Ritchie, Department
of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. The Minister for Employment Participation Kate Ellis, the Member for
Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon, the Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr
and Mayor of Cessnock at the time, Alison Davey also attended in support.
The market was open until 6:00pm to allow all employees the
opportunity to talk with potential employers and present copies of their resumes.
More than 650 job seekers from the smelter and surrounding
area attended and were able to discuss job opportunities with
local and interstate companies who were represented.
Alex Fry - Manager
he HSE portfolio for Hydro Kurri Kurri has always been a
complex space. Ensuring the health
and safety of all employees is a responsibility that Hydro takes very seriously.
Within the smelter, there are a range
of hazards and risks that require attention to detail and the organisational
discipline to stick to the procedures.
The period of uncertainty leading up
to the curtailment announcement created a new range of hazards and risks
that threatened our safety position. It
quickly became evident that the stress
and distraction caused by this period
could potentially lead to accidents
within the workplace.
As the shutdown process commenced,
new risks and threats quickly emerged.
As employees left the organisation,
production departments found themselves is a constant state of flux. Employees were being asked to perform
new tasks in new areas, or executing
existing tasks under different circumstances, all the while under a new level
of emotional distraction that comes
with the news of an organisation of this
size closing. The number of minor accidents increased and correspondingly, the number of hazard reports and
‘near-misses’ decreased. The HSE team
reacted quickly, supported by the
site and departmental leadership. The direction was
not to change our safety systems but to ensure that
they were followed. Over the course of the closure,
the team was active in ensuring that the systems and
policies that had kept the employees safe throughout
the life of the smelter were not abandoned throughout the shutdown process. The message was communicated across the workforce with the HSE team and
department leaders visible in the workplace helping
and supporting the safety message, ensuring that the
safe working behaviours were maintained. Quickly
the number of incidents dropped, the number of observed hazards and near misses picked up and it was
evident that even through the curtailment period,
the workforce remained commited to safety systems
in place.
The Environment Portfolio:
Managing the environmental responsibilities of the
smelter has been a significant task for the dedicated
environment team. The notice of curtailment added
a degree of complexity and scrutiny to an already
complex arena. While some parts of the workload fell
away, a whole new area of reporting and remediation
opened up, dealing not only with the day to day environmental management but also the development
of cleanup and maintenance plans. The environment
team was challenged as the authoritative source of
information for all of the smelter’s legacy environmental issues. The team answered this challenge admirably and have demonstrated a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the existing issues and
the processes required to remediate them.
Even though the workforce is reducing, the team continue to meet and exceed the site’s expectations on the
environmental management.
The Analytical and I.T. Portfolios:
Both the Analytical Lab and the I.T. team have maintained an extremely high level of professional service
to the production departments for Hydro Aluminium.
The curtailment notice did not change this. Both departments have remained committed to delivering the
required service levels right through to the end of production. The I.T. team have had the added responsiblity of designing and developing effective I.T. solutions
to meet the needs of the curtailment team after they
leave. This has been a complex process involving input from corporate and both local and global service
providers. Transitioning from an organisation with 500+
PC’s, 30 servers and 70 network devices to a space with
no more than 10 PC’s is a complex task. Getting it right
means the curtailment team will have access to the information and systems they need. Getting it wrong will
mean a lot more grey hairs in the crew.
CHEM LAB: Peter Bukey, Grant Foster & John Wenta
John Wenta - Laboratory
(28 years at the Smelter)
I resigned from BHP Newcastle Coal Washery to start on August 13, 1984 as Shift Analyst – Relief. In the early days it was as if I had moved to another planet. Everything was
so much better and cleaner and things only improved as time went on.
I rate my job satisfaction as high – my efforts were appreciated and I worked with excellent people. Hydro gave me the opportunity to have input into how we went about
running our business but at times, ability to input was limited.
Working at the smelter has enriched my family life but being on 24 hour callout every
second week for 20 years with 3 children occasionally limited my options.
One of the most memorable events for me was coming into work one Sunday morning
to see base jumpers descending from the stack. I have also seen a few low hot air balloons as well. Most memorable of all are the friendships built up so easily.
Working at the smelter was good for me – great work force and good safety and training.
Life without the smelter is going to be difficult for me, being 53 and having to look at
an entirely different role, hopefully in the mining industry. I expect to have to commit
to quite a bit of re-education and training. However, I intend to continue life with a
positive attitude and be grateful for what the smelter has helped me achieve.
I will miss the unique vigour and companionship that characterised the Kurri Kurri
ENVIRONMENT TEAM: John Douglas, Kerry McNaughton & Greg Masters
Paul Rooney
IT Casthouse Analyst
(23 years at the Smelter)
I was a Civil Engineer with Hunter District Water Board
before moving into IT.
Alcan advertised a vacancy for an IT person to assist
with the building of a new Casthouse commercial system. I was interviewed by Ken Ferguson (Technical
Manager) and John Rayner (IT) and was successful in
getting the job in 1989. Greg Hanks and myself made
up the two man team to build the system which was
implemented in 1990 as “Commercial Metman”.
The smelter was a really interesting place to work and
building the new system, while challenging, provided
great learning opportunities and gave me an invaluable
understanding of the commercial side of the smelter’s
business. This role called for me to work closely with
the IT team at Granville which helped me to build an IT
network adding to the interest and my development.
I felt so much satisfaction in automating so many manual tasks and in the successful implementation. The
satisfaction that I experienced in the early stages of
employment at the smelter has carried right through
until today. The key accountability of my role is to
optimize the cast house systems which means that I
am usually performing development tasks which is a
source of great satisfaction for me.
Later, I also became responsible for the cast house production systems which presented me with a difficult
time. The developer left without a structured handover and no system documentation which made it very
difficult for me to support the system that managed
the casthouse processes.
The casthouse manning had been reduced around the
automation which meant that any system outage or
failure resulted in loss of production or quality, adding to my stress levels – very stressful but in the end
Working as an analyst in IT is rewarding and provided
me with a real sense of contributing to the business. I
feel that my contribution was important and respected
by cast house people at all levels in the implementation and optimisation of both commercial and production cast house systems.
Working at the smelter has been a great career choice
for me. I have made plenty of friends and had a very
busy and healthy social life with all levels of the smelter organization.
Under Alcan and Capral we had very little say in the IT
decision-making processes and as a result, had an inadequate network, server capacity and software.
VAW and Hydro ownership brought a strong respect of
the need for sound local IT systems, support and infrastructure. This really allowed us to provide the service
that we knew the smelter needed to perform.
My last day will be 30th November 2012. I plan to do
some travel with the family and then make some career decisions.
IT TEAM: Paul Rooney & Jocelyn St-Jean
SECURITY TEAM: Back Row: Alex Fry, Col Wilson, Bruce Oakes, Bruce Engert
Front Row: Brett Fenwick & Kevin Power
SAFETY TEAM: Denise Blackadder, James York & Alex Fry
By Dave Beach - Carbon Plant Manager
On Wednesday, June 6, 2012 the first milestone in
the curtailment of the Kurri Kurri Carbon plant was
met with the production of the last green anode.
Both Greenmix teams were in on the day to share
the moment and reflect on a lot of good times with
good mates making good green anodes (Kurri Kurri
Carbon Plant’s anodes were widely respected as
best in the group among the Hydro smelters).
The second major milestone was met safely in the
Carbon Plant in the week of July 13, 2012 with the
shutdown of the Anode Baking Furnace (ABF2).
Fire 2 was shutdown through out the week of July
2 and Fire 3 (the final fire group) was shutdown on
the morning of July 9.
All firing equipment was then disconnected and
re-organised to allow final anode and coke unloading to begin. ABF2 was constructed and commissioned throughout 2004 / 5 and has served the KK
smelter well, generating just short of 1 million high
quality baked anodes (940,000 anodes in total).
This coupled with the 7A furnace production of 2.5
million anodes and the 7 B/C furnace production
of 1.1 million anodes, represents an achievement
that the Baking teams can be very proud of.
At the time of writing this note, our third milestone
was also safely well underway - the shutdown of
the Cast Iron Rodding (CIR) & Anode Services (AS)
area. This area is at the business end of Carbon,
running with low inventory levels and needing to
meet Potroom demands on a daily basis for new
anodes and butt returns. The way in which the CIR/
AS teams have conducted the shutdown of their
area so far is highly commendable.
Throughout all these major milestones we have been
supported by the Carbon Maintenance Team, many
other support functions/departments and some key
contractors also.
It is the people
and the
contribution they
have all made,
that impressed me
the most.
Again to all involved, a large thank you in assisting the
Carbon plant in operation and in curtailment phases.
Reflecting on what has made the Carbon plant a special place to work for those who have done so over the
years here at Kurri, it is the people and the contribution
they have all made, that impressed me the most.
These contributions over the years include maintaining an excellent safety record and upkeeping excellent
quality standards, raising hundreds of good innovations that added value and improved the processes and
above all, the flexible work attitude demonstrated and
the true sense of mateship and comradery in Carbon.
I thank everyone involved with the Carbon Plant area,
past and present, Hydro personnel and contractors, in
the safe and high quality operation, maintenance and
shutdown of Carbon capacity at the Kurri Site.
2012 – 9 Feb
2012 – 5 June
2012 – 26 June
2012 – 9 July
2012 - August
Mixer 5 & 6 installed
7B Furnace in service
7C furnace in service
Conversion from pencil pitch to liquid pitch in Greenmix
AKKBUS burner system developed by Carbon Plant for baking furnace
Greenmix Rationalisation. Revamp of entire crushing circuits inside Greenmix, adoption of new aggregate, replacement of CP1 control panel with Bailey equipment
Flailing Chains installed in Anode Services to clean butts more
Cast Iron Rodding introduced to replace old rodding presses
Vacuum cranes installed in furnace, replacing the use of clamshell buckets to move coke efficiently
Cast Iron Cathode Rodding
Greenmix scrubber installed to improve environment in mixing and forming areas
ABF2 dry-out fires started, with production of baked anodes starting in early 2005. 7A furnace is shut down after baking approximately 2.5 million anodes. 7B/C was closed earlier after baking 1.1 million anodes during its life
Fire 1 (of three fires in the baking furnace) shut down due to reduced demand after Line 1 curtailment
The Greenmix plant shut down as part of the plant curtailment
Fire 2 closed down
Fire 3, the last fire, shut down
The last anodes were pulled from the furnace. The total production from ABF2 was around 940,000 anodes
James Scott, Kevin Hill, Trevor Beverly, Shane Mungoven, Anthony Wilson, Phil Innes, Dave Stones, Greg Jones,
Gary Killen, Paul Kennedy, Shawn Sutherland, Frank Krause & Enner Minoza
MY STORY... Frank Krause
I started at the Kurri Kurri smelter over 25 years ago as a fitter with the union run Labour Co-Op as a
replacement for a fitter in the Pot Rebuild crew who was recovering from a hernia.
I arrived at the front gate and had a look around - nothing unusual - lots of buildings and vehicles
moving around. Just like any other workplace.
I was told by the guard to go down to the next corner (at the canteen) and wait there - I would be
picked up.
On the walk down the footpath, every person who passed me on their way out said “G’Day mate”. I
was confused - how did they know who I was and where had I crossed paths with them before. I did
not recognise one of them.
I soon realised that the Kurri Kurri smelter was not just steel and concrete. It had within it a vibrant
workforce that was second to none - the lifeblood of the plant. They were and still are what has made
the smelter a special place to work.
I was fortunate to have spent time in most departments across site, from the Potrooms as a contractor, then to Casting (where I was given a permanent Alcan position), to Engineering, to Central and
finally to the Carbon Plant, from which I will make the final journey to the front gate tomorrow afternoon. It will, for me, be a very emotional walk. I will be leaving so many good people behind, but will
have many great memories.
To all my friends and colleagues, I wish you all well for the future. Stay safe and be happy. You are a
great bunch and won’t be forgotten any time soon.
I have accepted a position at G.H. Varley at Tomago, a leisurely 10 minutes drive from home. No kangaroos or potholes. My car won’t know what hit it.
Recollections of working in the Carbon Plant
By Kevin Hearne
I came to the Kurri Kurri Smelter when I was 22 years
old. During my short life, I had travelled around
Australia as an exploration driller and decided the
best place to live was in the Hunter Valley. Close to
Sydney, good beaches, top class wineries and the
mountains to our north sold the region as the place
for me.
Mining was the obvious place for me but the smelter equally appealed as a stable place to work. So I
kept pestering HR for about 6 months until I finally
got a start on April 2, 1981. Reg Spruce took me
under his wing in the Carbon plant and trained me
well in the following months. Other people leading
the way from memory during the following period
were Albert Spruce, Henry Arendarski, John Kerry,
Terry Boatswain and Graeme (Sluggo) Slade. I also
remember Hugh McLean, John Spinaze and Dennis
Archibald as being good leaders in the early years
at the smelter.
My initial thoughts about the industry were that I
wouldn’t last in this job for long. The movement of
heavy equipment and the pungent smell of burning pitch didn’t help, though I must say the people I
worked with made working here easier.
In the early days at the smelter, you knew when a
strike was on by the cars in the car park with a boat
hitched on behind. They lay in wait prepared for
a day other than at the smelter. The shifts were 8
hour shifts x 7 days rotational roster. We worked 21
days and had 7 days off. Compare that with working 14 days on and 14 days off out of a 28 day roster. Boy it was good to see the change. Mind you,
the change only just happened. The vote to change
shift patterns was only just passed but by the time
the trial period was over, no one wanted to return
to the old roster.
My first job was in Rod Repair pad welding steel
tips to the rod that went into a carbon block and
formed the anode. They weighed about 25kgs and
in today’s world, would have been a manual handling nightmare. Barry “Buck” Macdonald was a
larger than life character in Rod Repair and gave me
good hands -on tuition as well as telling me how
he was going. Brian Webb (an ex Vietnam vet) always
led the way with strong humour and old fashioned
Aussie workplace scams ( Vince Baker loved the attention). Peter Currie and Mark Laverick made up the
team. I used to work any overtime going on C shift
just to listen to the antics in the cribroom at meal
times. Many times I struggled out of the crib room in
fits of laughter. A team also had strong characters,
ably led by Tom Fox and Peter Margetts (another
Vietnam vet ), John Grant, and Jeff Challen. Peter
Margetts had terrific organisational skills and many a
trip or event was organised by Peter and good times
were had by all.
Although I didn’t work in Greenmix, I got to know
Ian “Grump” Harwood. He knew this part of the
plant better than anyone else. Another old hand in
Greenmix in the early days was Max “The Hammer”
Carson. He used to always carry a hammer when
operating the vibrator and used it frequently to get
things going. No one came within a patch of Max’s
operating style. Other people that I know worked
tirelessly over the years in Greenmix were Brian Logan, Jim Hurst, Graeme Woods, Trevor Morris, Alan
Harmey, Gary Johnson, Russell Jory, Ian Hellyer and
Mick Carson.
The bake furnace also had its larger than life characters with Stan Gilbert, Jack (007)Carney, Steve
Timmins, Dave Hutton, Merv Caban, John Ryan, Rob
Lowbridge, Greg Adams and Fred Jones. Steve Timmins was the ‘gun’ operator in the early years of coking pits with a clam shell bucket. The crane was an
extention of his body when he was operating.
I would like to mention and thank some close friends who
have supported and helped me over many years. Henry
Arendarski, Bruce Sawers, Paul O’Donohue, Eric Hocking, Michael Lyle, Trevor Clements, Dave Towns, Andrew
Walker, Dennis Archibald, Andrew Robbins, Dave Beach,
Rick Coetzee, Martin (Sonny Bill) Francis among many others. Also deserving a mention here are Trevor Morris and
Michael Sternbeck, who have given terrific union support
to their members in the Carbon Plant and have kept us all
on our toes.
Over the years we could not have done without the tireless work of Karen Thompson and more recently Robyn
Keegan. They were our secretaries (among other titles)
and were a never ending source of energy in putting together whatever was required at the time.
The smelter, for me was made up of people from all walks
of life, who collectively created a great family environment
where mateship and helping each other out was high on
most people’s mind. The teamwork and energy to create
a better working environment for all will be remembered
mostly in my mind. The continuous improvement generated some very rewarding projects for many people and
coupled with good capital projects from Hydro, we improved the plant enormously over the years. I will certainly carry these positive thoughts of the smelter, the teams I
worked in, and the people who made up these teams with
me for the rest of my life.
The crib rooms were no place for the faint hearted,
be prepared for mateship style taunts, male gossip
and many well run events. Cards, darts and dominos took their respective turns to entertain. Many
disputes took weeks to resolve, but then something
else came along “more important”.
Rodding in the latter part of my career at the Kurri Kurri smelter became my pride and joy. It didn’t
get that way because of much that I did. More so by
what the operators and maintenance people worked
towards achieving. From the “old days” of paste ramming anodes to the introduction of Cast Iron Rodding, then cast iron cathode rodding, there were
many challenges along the way. There is just no way
I can mention everyone’s name here, only to say that
every one of the people in Rodding helped improve
and supported the operation in some way and I am
so proud of their contribution.
GREENMIX CREW: Steve Meir, Graham Woods, Trevor Morris, Scott Field, Warren Jarrett, Shane Close, Michael
Carson, Garry Johnson (crouching), Greg Haffey & Ian Harwood
by Trevor Morris
A great mate and crew member of ours was Gary
“Spunky” Johnson. Good worker –great sense of
humour – always prepared to help others and
loved a joke and a good stirrer to boot.
Well one night shift Gary was experiencing some
really strong stomach pains and he had been having some problems in the bowel area for a while
and was due for some minor day surgery to have
this checked out. We came to work the next night
shift and Gary wasn’t in - he was having a sickie.
I rang his home to see how he was doing and his
lovely wife Anne-Marie told me he had been admitted to Maitland Hospital. So I told her if he was
still in there on the weekend, I would come in and
visit him.
Sunday arrived and Gary was still in hospital. I
started thinking of what I could do to cheer him
up instead of the normal old visit to the hospital.
Then it came to me that I had an old surgical theatre outfit that I had acquired for a fancy dress
party years ago. So I put it in a bag and went to
the hospital.
I went straight to the nurse’s desk and got the all
clear to proceed with this joke on Spunky,
with a great deal of assistance from the matron
on duty and the nurses. They added to the gear
that I had by giving me a stethoscope –kidney
shaped tray with the biggest needle I have ever
seen and surgical gloves covered in lubricant. Well
I got all kitted up and proceeded to walk down the
hall to Gary’s bed. Heads turned everywhere from
the other patients. When I got to his room, Gary
looked at me cracking up and yelled out for security. His wife, daughter, son in-law and two grand
daughters were just staring at me, not knowing
what the hell was going on. It was priceless.
I asked Gary how he knew it was me – he replied:
“You can put a mask over that nose but you can’t
hide it”.
After we had all settled down and had a good old
laugh, Spunky said he needed to go to the toilet.
He got out of bed and started walking down the
hall way, dragging his stand with his drip attached
to it. I then yelled out to Spunky that I had figured out what the problem was with him. I said it
was those silly bloody Manly boxer shorts he was
wearing. That would be enough to give anyone
the shits!!!
ABF2 A Shift - Garry Waugh, Daniel Windle, Eric Pedersen, David Arthur
ABF2 B Shift - Warren Gardner, Greg Adams, Robert Lowbridge, David Towns, Jason Ford
ABF2 C Shift - Michael Eastley, John Sams, Paul Marshall
Working here enriched my life massively. I got to work
in Qatar for two years and take the family over. Those
memories will live forever. My kids still talk about their
first camel ride.
David Arthur
8 years – Carbon Bake Furnace
I have had a lot of opportunities to improve my position
and move forward in different areas. I always felt I was a
part of a good work environment.
Garry Waugh
23 years
Bob Sams
The best 32 years of my 58 years. The other 26 years were
good too. Life is good. Be good to it.
Trevor Clements
32 years - Potroom 2,3 and Carbon Plant
Job satisfaction was high. D Shift was a great shift that had
a laugh at everyone’s expense. The team was organised
by the team and performed its business how the team
wanted with input from all team members.
Shane Close
5 years – Greenmix
Outside the furnace one morning talking to Alan March, I
commented on a wombat near the fence that turned out
to be a rock. A drug test was arranged and not aware of
what was going on, I went for the test. Everyone had a big
laugh on me.
John Sams
19 years
Darren Fenwick
I started dog watch in the Carbon Plant and saw a bloke
lying on a tool trolley. I was told he had been killed on the
job that afternoon and they were waiting for the undertaker.
Chris Moore
31 years - Carbon, Casting, Central Maintenance
The Hydro way is the best system I have experienced anywhere. As a team, we delivered best practice and best
production performances right to the end. The people I
work with here are like family, we get on so well.
Trevor Morris
29 years – Greenmix, Anode Service, Rod Repair
I started on B Shift in Anode services. After the first week,
I was wondering why I hadn’t applied for the job here
sooner. Working with all of the guys here made it even
more enjoyable.
Garry Johnson
22 years – Carbon Plant, Anode Services, Ring Furnace,
There have been plenty of funny stories. The day they finished the Greenmix scrubber, they gave me the chance
to start it up. I started it up but they had the fan going
backwards. Dust went absolutely everywhere.
Michael Carson
29 years – Greenmix, Furnace, Rod Repair
Lip service - Dean Armstrong and
Michael Sternbeck
Job satisfaction was high. I have had a lot of input into job
safety, quality and improvements to systems in Greenmix. I’ll try and find a new job for the next five years. If
that doesn’t happen, I’ll just retire and travel.
Ian Harwood
33 years - Greenmix
It was a good place to work. The money was good. The
workmates were great. We had a good flexible roster.
Chris Ingham
33 years – Carbon Plant
I still catch up with my work mates for a beer and tell
stories of things we did together.
Graham King
37 years - Central Workshop
Last anodes out
Robyn Keegan
In May 1978, I succeeded in securing the role
as Secretary to the Construction Manager for
the building of Line 2 North and South Potlines.
Crooks Michell Peacock Stewart (CMPS) was
contracted as the Construction Manager for
this development. There were many characters
in the team and a boss (John Reid) who while
trying to take a photo of the oncoming train at
the railway crossing, got a little too close and
hit the train. He was not harmed but the car
needed some repairs. The team included Kate
Milford, who continued to work at the Smelter
years after and remains a good friend today.
I started at Alcan in December 1975, fresh out
of Cessnock Technical College after studying
Secretarial Studies. My first job at the Smelter
was as a Junior Accounts Clerk which involved
riding my bicycle to each department and dropping off and collecting mail, twice per day. Certainly different to these days where email is the
main source of communication. My role also
included the invoicing of aluminium shipments,
ordering and distribution of stationery supplies
for the entire plant as well as general office duties. I worked with a terrific group of ladies,
including Hilda Chippendale, Coral Hurst and
Del Walters. My first boss was Margaret Farrell,
who ran a very tight ship.
In November 1980 I was trained to operate one
of the first word processors at the plant. The
unit took up half the office but no more carbon
paper in the typewriter and the need for an
eraser to fix any errors.
I worked in the Accounts section on the construction project for Line 3 which commenced
in November 1981 but was curtailed in 1982 for
budgetary considerations. In 1984, Line 3 Stage
II construction continued where I was employed
as secretary to the Construction Manager, Roger Giasson, a French Canadian Alcan employee
and a team of about 40 to 50 Raymond Engineer personnel. We were located on the far
side of the existing Line 3. Construction was
completed in 1985. Working on the
construction team were Denise Blackadder and
Denise Stoker, who have also been long time
employees of the Smelter and good friends.
After 11 years full-time work, I retired to raise
my son Sean and help Gerard, my husband, with
his business. I continued to do casual work at
the Smelter when called upon and have worked
in most of the departments across the site.
As a receptionist back in the 80’s, to create and
send an electronic message you used a ‘telex
cutter’, which created a thin, long perforated
paper strip which was then fed into a telex machine. How technology has changed for the
the HR team to assist with the Hydro Smelter
redundancy process.
The Smelter has been through many name
changes, Alcan, Capral, VAW and finally Hydro.
It has provided the local region with many job
opportunities and for me, it has been a huge
part of my life where I have a lot of wonderful
memories and made many life long friends. It
will be a very sad day when I make that final
last drive from the smelter along Hart Road to
After my daughter Teal was born in 1995, I returned to part time work in the Carbon Plant,
helping the Maintenance Planner and also the
then Carbon Plant Secretary, Karen Thompson.
I returned to full time work on the “SURF” Project in 2001 for the rebuild of the Carbon Baking
Furnace and modernisation of Potlines 2 and 3,
where Dennis Archibald was the Project Manager.
Near the conclusion of the SURF Project, I secured the position of Secretary in the Carbon
Plant, where I have enjoyed working for the
past 9 years and only recently transferred to
Russell Jory ‘controlling’ the Greenmix
By Chris Ingham
It was my last week at work before taking time off to
have an operation. I wanted to give my work mates
something to remember me by. I decided to make a
laxative cake. On the way home from work I called into
a chemist, walked up to the counter with 6x24 packs
of Laxatives. The girl at the pharmacy said ‘What are
you doing with all the laxatives?’ I said I was making
a chocolate cake. She laughed and said ‘I can’t sell
you 144 laxatives I’ll lose my job.’ I went to 6 different
chemists to get my laxatives. My girlfriend and I melted
all the laxatives on to the cake. I had to convince my
work mates to try a slice. When my entire shift arrived
at work at 10.30pm in our crib room I told them that I
had been to a party before work and there was a lot of
food left over so I brought this cake in. No one wanted
a slice all night. Then at 2.30am we all came in for our
crib break. Harry, Ron, Gary, Jack and Borris each had
a slice of cake, then more. I wondered how quick the
cake would work. At 6am I went into Henry’s office and
said I had to go early and told him my reason. He said
ok, if I was you I would be leaving too. I travelled with
Ron, he had eaten about 4 slices. He said he was going to
watch his sons play soccer. I started laughing, Ron asked
why. I told him about the cake. Ross, Ron’s brother who
also travelled with us, started laughing as well. Ron spent
all day in the toilet. A few days later I called Jack and a
woman answered. I asked could I talk to Jack please. Del,
Jack’s lovely wife said that Jack was ill, but is this Chris
from work? I said yes and Del said that Jack would like
to talk to me. I can still remember hearing Del tell Jack
to be nice. Jack said ‘listen you arsehole, if I could reach
in and drag you through the phone I would, and I’d flush
you down the toilet.’ I heard Harry, Garry and Borris had
also spent a few days on the toilet.
ABF2 D Shift - Robert Sams, Greg Newby, Greg Mason
AS & CIR A Shift - Kevin Hearne, Steven Corling, Scott Zimmerman, Michael Sternbeck, Russell Jory, Darren
Fenwick, Ryan Wilson, John Grant, Neil Rees
CIR A Shift - Steven Corling, Russell Jory, Darren Fenwick, Ryan Wilson
CIR B Shift - John Thorne, Peter Richardson, Craig Dodge, John Kaczmar, Peter Currie
AS B Shift - Darren Gillard, Chris Ingham (top), Dean Armstrong, Wayne Robertson
by Manager Richard Brown
In theory, shutting a Potline down could be a very simple exercise: Simply hit a Potline trip button, wait for everything
to go hard and go home!
However, this approach doesn’t allow for the possibility of
restarting some pots at a later date, nor does it allow for
the realization of the value of the inventory of metal in a
pot, nor does it allow for the recovery/re-use/recycling of
the various raw material inputs into the process.
Following the announcement of the Line 1 closure in January, the organisation naturally suffered from a fairly major
dip in motivation and I believe there was an influence of
this in the process of shutting Line 1.
Although there was a plan, circumstances led to the actual
shut down to deviate from this and in the end, a decision
had to be made to enable an accelerated shutdown of the
Line 1.
I am extremely
proud and greatly
appreciative of the
professional and
approach of all
employees during
the shutdown.
A period of uncertainty and insecurity followed and there
was an impact on the quality of the Potline operations.
However with the right approach, the operation was soon
heading back in the right direction and in fact, a period of
remarkable stability followed.
As an example, in April / May, Line 3 went for 35 days without a pot failure. This is the longest period on record that
the Line had not had a pot shutdown and a real indicator of
the turnaround in operational stability. Alas, the decision
was made to bring things to an end.
On the back of the certainty and almost relief that this decision gave, the Potline teams undertook to work through the
shut down process, safely, pragmatically and professionally
and this time, unlike Line 1, we would get a better result.
Working with reps from each of the crews, a shutdown plan
was developed that allowed for all of Line 2 and half of Line
3 to be shut within 6 weeks.
Line 3 north would be kept operating for another 6 weeks, to allow us to consume as much carbon (recycled anode butts), bath (base cleanings and various piles of “dubious” nature) and
alumina (from the dead stock in our silo’s) as
possible. Then it would be finally closed over
about 10 days.
The shut down process settled into a “groove”.
After tapping the selected group of pots heavily
on the shifts leading up to the shutdown, the
bath level was tapped down and the line would
go off power early on day shift.
The pit crew like activity in the basements plated out the required pots and then we waited
for the remaining bath to solidify in the shutdown pots so that the last few tonnes of metal
could be tapped cleanly.
Outside of the Lines themselves there were a
lot of other activities going on; removing and
processing the various piles of alumina/bath,
vacuuming out silo’s, cleaning up removing the
alumina from the scrubbers, cleaning basements, preparing the plating equipment and
dummy plating pots.
But the most intense was probably the management and bagging of the bath and cover
At the end of the shutdown approx. 7000t of
material was bagged ready for sale.
At the end of the Line 2 /3 shutdown we had:
- Tapped ~ 2500t of metal
- Tapped ~ 1000t of bath
- Re-used ~ 1500 anode butts
- Bagged ~ 7000t of bath / acm
- Vacuumed ~ 4000t of alumina from the scrubbers
- Said good-bye to too many friends, colleagues
and work mates!
Of course none of this could be achieved without the invaluable contribution of our people.
In very difficult times, I have been extremely
proud and overwhelmingly appreciative of the
professional and pragmatic approach of all Potroom employees during the shutdown.
Having spent most of my 20+years working at
the smelter in the Potrooms, I have met many
fantastic people, developed friendships, been
challenged, learnt so much, and generally had
a good time.
I would like to thank everyone for their contributions and support and wish you all every success for your future endeavors.
POTROOM STAFF: Back: Ashley Brandse, Pat Heffernan, Scott Asquith, Matt Hawke, Mick Wilson, Mick
Harrison & Phil Fletcher
Front: Ross McEntyre, Darren Fordham, Les Slade, Carl Morice & Richard Brown
MY STORY... Brad Knight
I was made redundant from my job
as galvenising plant operator at Onesteel in August 2007. Two contractor friends recommended that I try
to gain employment at the smelter
(“Job for Life”).
Some are quite critical of her but
she treats all with the same high
level of respect and this has been a
great life lesson for me.
In 2010 the Potroom Manager suffered a stroke, resulting from surgery.
The Return to Work Coordinator
asked if I could share my recovery
experiences with him, in hope that
it might ease his frustration in recovery.
On December 3, 2007 I was hired
at the smelter in Potroom Services
doing routine voltage balance measurements on pots, tool repairs and
metal and bath sampling.
After the first month I thought that
I had found the job of a lifetime and
hoped that I could retire from here.
I got a great deal of satisfaction from
what I did and knew how what I did
contributed to the business.
I was pushed by my boss, Andrew
Wilson, to learn about the whole
reduction process and I am now so
glad that he did that.
Hydro gave me every opportunity to
contribute in how we worked and
for me to reach my personal career
The training programs and opportunities here are second to none.
While at Hydro, I have achieved
accreditations in Training & Assessment, Frontline Management,
LOTO, HR Cert IV and a Diploma in
Process Plant Technology all as a result of Hydro assistance.
Working at the Smelter has given
me improved life and career opportunities. I worked all day-work
and so shift rosters have not been a
problem in my social life.
I suffered a stroke in December 2008
and was wheelchair bound.
After 2 months of hospitalization
Potroom Production Services
I would meet with him on a daily basis and we would share our experiences and feelings but unfortunately, his stroke was severe and his slow
recovery caused him to leave work.
I returned to work for 2 hours per
week. I had no movement in the entire left side of my body but I could
slowly walk with the assistance of a
My team had identified tasks that
I was able to perform. They picked
me up at the gate of a morning,
drove me to my workplace, made
sure that I was safe and helped me
to move around as required.
The team went out of their way to
accommodate my return to work
and it took a further eight months
before I returned to full duties.
The Hydro Return to Work Coordinator (Cheryl Fall) was a massive influence and support to me, my family and my recovery.
The way in which she assisted me
(she is a bloody saint) changed my
career aspirations and in general
my life goals and values. She goes
to great pains to assist everyone.
I now openly share my experience
with other stroke victims as required
as I know what they are feeling and I
believe that I can assist them.
I have had many highlights at the
Kurri Kurri smelter but the brightest
was the day that the Doctor signed
my” Fit for Full Duties” certificate in
October 2009.
Working with my team and getting
to know all of the different personalities has been another highlight and
I will miss the B.B.Q’s, Taity’s fishing
stories and Willie’s farm tales.
I will never forget any of my experiences at Hydro as they have changed
my life for the better.
My life’s worst experience has led
to what looks like being my greatest
career accomplishment.
My last day is the 20th July and I
start my new job as “Employment
Coach in the Disability Employment
Department with Castle Personnel.
* First metal produced
- 1969
* Original operating technology
- Alcan’s first end-to-end pre-bake design (based on their experience with soderberg design)
and was operated as a Side Break potline after early failures with primitive point feeding
* Upgrade
- 2005/2006 – Twin-point breaker feeders, HAL3000 Pot Control, APICS Potline supervisory system, Pot Tending Vehicles with Cavity Cleaning ability, Anode Covering Vehicle, Anode Change attachment for gantry cranes, Dry scrubber Pre-reactors, Alumina feeding from
primary to reacted alumina, anode cover material from primary alumina to blended cover
material (reacted alumina/crushed crust & cavity cleaning material).
* First metal produced
- 1979
* Upgrade
- 1992/1993: Bar Breaker to Point Breaker Feeders
- 2005/2006: HAL3000 Pot Control, APICS Potline supervisory system Aluminium Production Information Control System), Pot Tending Cranes fitted with Cavity Cleaners
* First metal produced
- 1985
* Upgrade
- 2005/2006: HAL3000 Pot Control, APICS Potline supervisory system, Pot Tending Cranes
fitted with Cavity Cleaners
OUR STORY... the Shakespeare brothers
The three brothers all worked at the Pelaw Main pipe
works before the smelter. In 1975 Warren started at
the smelter in Line 1 after a recommendation from
mate Kevin (Luke) Smith.
Trevor left the pipe works in 1982 to work for Les
Murray (contracted to the smelter) in Pot Demolition. This was a very dirty and physical job and so in
1986, he became a smelter employee (then Alcan)
working as a leading hand for Trevor Pieper in Pot
Lance followed Trevor and started as an operator in
Potline 1 in 1988. A forth brother, Graeme, started
in Line 1 in the early eighties but he could not handle
the shift work nor the repetitive nature of the potroom work and resigned after 2 weeks.
In 1990 Warren left to work in a coal mine which
closed in 1993 and he was fortunate enough to return to the smelter as an operator in Potline 3 on B
Shift with brother Lance.
Early impressions of working at the smelter were
mixed. Trevor was very happy to be working with a
lot of Kurri Kurri mates and with his brother. Warren
also had a great start knowing most of the guys and
an early sense of the team looking after one another.
Lance’s initial impressions were quite different. His
first week was in the middle of January and at 40 +
degrees working on sick pot 120 and changing failed
anodes all day long. “ I started to wonder, what have
I done, is it going to be like this everyday?”
All agree that potline work was a lot harder back
then, no respirators or hearing protection, all manual operations with open cab cranes without air conditioning.
Highlight for Lance was transferring to B Shift as they
had a great team and social spirit. If any member
was sick or incapacitated then B Shift were there to
help out both at work and at home. e.g. One of the
team members was incapacitated by a stroke and
the whole team conducted a workshop to paint his
According to Warren, “the bosses were great too.
Geoff Hamilton Sr.(Foreman) was so good to work
for. He taught me everything I know about the smelting process, but he refused to teach us all that he
knew as he did not want anyone on his team that
was smarter than himself.”
Trevor, Warren and Lance Shakespeare
The highlight for Trevor was moving from Pot Demolition to Leading Hand of the Rack Raising and bag
changing crew in 1991. “This change meant that I
had to learn the reduction and fume treatment processes, which was both challenging and very interesting. Until then I only got to work on dead pots and
knew nothing about the production side of potroom
Warren was made redundant in February. He has
bought a motor home and is really enjoying the mobile home lifestyle. “ I am actually about to leave and
spend some time with brother Graeme on his property in central Queensland. I am now retired and
waiting for my wife to do the same. The smelter has
been great for me as it has allowed me to achieve
the lifestyle that I had wished for”.
Lance has enjoyed the shift work mainly because of
the time that it affords him to spend with his young
grandchildren. “I am not sure what I will do after
September but I am looking for employment at the
“The wages here, for our level of schooling were
very good and the bosses were more like mentors,
allowing flexibility and if you did the right thing, you
had no problems with them.” Trevor reflects.” I have
eight children and will need to find employment.
Both Lance and Trevor finish on the 9th September.
A SHIFT: Back: Garry Ellicott, Kevin Jeans, Dean Howard, Patrick Livett, Justin Lyons, Darren Blayden, Malcolm
Roach, Ashley Brandse, Trevor Shakespeare, Richard Bowdler, Peter Hure, David Sawtell, Steve Hughes,
Tony Metcalfe, Brett Lampard
Front: Matthew Harris, Evan Ryman, Peter Cavanagh, Trent Bristow, Paul Docherty, Stephen McCann,
Absent: Graeme Walters
SHIFT B: Back: Paul Clement, Garry Blanch, Michael Smith, Robert Mowatt, Gregory Stafford, Peter McNamara,
Gregory Allan, Robert Dunning
Front: Lesley Taggart, Darren Dunning, Ian Bootland, Lance Shakespeare, Paul King, Janez Kostrin, Troy Doherty,
Perry Jenner, David McAlister, Craig Collins, Ben Basista, Jeffrey Henderson, Anthony Swan,
Absent: Colin Bowd, Phillip Callaghan, Glenn Flannery
C SHIFT: Back: Stephen Kiem, Michael Lawrence, Stephen Watson, Timothy Chambers, Dallas Meyn,
Michael Wilson, John Peters, Jeffrey Longhurst, Peter Johns, Wayne Fitzgerald, Garry Peters, Colin Herbert, Myles
Cameron, Robert Peters, Glenn Malam
Front: Matthew Wallace, Greg Hamilton, Jason Earl, Christopher Scott, Nicholas Bunt, David Blacktop,
Matthew Hawke
Absent: Carlo Delbianco, Damien O’Connor, Brett Wellard
D SHIFT: Back: Christopher Aberley, Terry Bayliss, Warren Hanley, Anthony Day, Gavin Vanderdrift, Allan Delanty,
Shane Coffey, Shane Duers
Front: Luke Vanderdrift, Steve Harris, Robert Moeller, Lee Nevin, Trevor Shakespeare, Ryan Hurst, Darren Fordham,
Greg White, Michael McDonald, Steven Clarke, Tony Matias, Graham Newstead, Geoffrey Hamilton
Absent: Michael Brett, Mark Croese
MY STORY... Peter Hure
28 years service
Prior to working at the smelter I was a green keeper with
East Maitland Bowling Club. At that time, clubs were
strongly talking about going to synthetic greens and doing
away with greenkeepers. I was concerned about my future
and a club member recommended that I look at getting a
job at the smelter (then Alcan).
In September 1984, I started as an operator under training
for the new Potline 3. In those days staff wore blue helmets and wages wore white helmets but Line 3 employees
were given bright orange helmets and we became known
as “Jaffa’s”.
The Line 3 startup was delayed because of a downturn in
the business and I was transferred to Line 1. This was a
worrying time as I had just started in a new job and already
there was a large doubt looming over my future and the
Jaffa’s were copping a lot of flack from the other employees as we were seen to be cutting out their overtime. This
was a tough time for us but it soon subsided with the announcement of the Line 3 resumption.
The Line 3 startup was an interesting and trying time with
new tasks and skills to be developed and honed under the
pressure of a start up deadline. We (Line 3 Phase 1) were
all in the same boat, learning together and this resulted in
the forging of strong friend and social relationships. The
change to a 7 day roster also helped drive the formation of
workmate bonds as we could not maintain previous relationships, only having every second weekend off.
One of the funniest memories that I will have of the smelter is the time that my good mate Mick Stapleton had to
get two buggies from the end of the potline to the centre
passage. I looked up the line to see two parallel buggies
approaching with big Mick straddling both, each foot on
a throttle, each hand on a steering wheel and he made it.
I enjoyed being involved in the technology and the changes that we made over the years.
The cast iron rodding of anodes was a most welcomed
change in going from about 20 percent anode failures
down to less than 2 percent.
I will miss the friends and relationships most. I am too
young to retire and will look at returning to something
similar to what I did before coming to the smelter, maybe
in parks and gardens. This may also give the opportunity to
spend more time on my Harley.
Stephen Hughes - Potroom Operator
My father (Harold) was a T/A (Trades Assistant)
in the Carbon Plant and strongly recommended that I
look at getting a job with Machinery Overhauls (a maintenance contracting company) to get into the smelter.
Before this I was a pastry cook.
Following my father’s advice, I gained employment with Machinery Overhauls and became a Shift
Trades Assistant in the Potroom Maintenance Department.
Rationalistation of the site maintenance teams
was going to result in me being transferred to a daywork
maintenance position, so I applied for a Potroom production vacancy and was successful in gaining a job in
Potroom 3 on A Shift.
I have always enjoyed my work here and have
been either President or Vice President of the smelter
Social Club for nearly 20 years and a member of the
Plant Emergency Organisation (PEO) for 10 years. I also
completed the 4 day OH&S safety training and was the
Potroom A Shift OH & S representative.
I did have to re-establish social relationships
around the shift roster as I could not maintain what I
had in my previous role.
We had, what I think was a funny incident where
a contract electrician was replacing pot control boxes in
the potroom. He left his tool box up against one of the
potroom building columns and Paul King, not seeing the
tool box, backed over it with a cavity cleaner, completely
flattening the tool box and damaging most of the tools.
At the investigation, Potroom Superintendent Peter
Marshall completely lost self control and Kingy and I
could not stop laughing. Potrooms had committed to
replacing all of the damaged tools for the contractor
but had to draw the line after replacing more tools then
could physically fit into the toolbox.
In Lines 2 & 3, we work in two man teams and
I had a pretty tough time in losing 3 work partners, the
last two in a short period. John (Derro) Whyburn (road
accident) and Pat Gallen and Darren Bailey (sudden illness). All were my work partners at their time of passing
and the company provided great support to me and my
team through this difficult period.
Working as a farrier in my spare time, I had one
of my legs broken from the kick of a horse in 1993 and
the company kept me employed on dayshift light dutes.
This is something that they did not have to do but they
did which provided income for the 3 months that I was
out of action.
The smelter has been good for me. I raised my
family and bought my property out of it. I am going to
miss being at the smelter and the blokes.
My last day will be the 30th September and I am
currently still looking for work – I will probably get back
into the maintenance business.
POTROOM MAINTENANCE: Back: Chris Walker, Liam Craft & Adam Barker
Front: Mick Tsakissiris, Phil Hancock & Phil Bennett
PROCESS SERVICES: Back: Scott Asquith, Barry Whiteley, Brad Knight, Kristian Zvingulis
Front: Mark Fullick, Paul Fullick, Glenn Williams, Mark Goodall
Pat Heffernan - Potline Quality Controller
I left school at the age of 14 years 9 months
and worked at the local abattoirs, National Textiles
and then Tomago Aluminium before starting work at
the Kurri Kurri smelter. I started here in 1996 as a contractor, working for Moncrieff Fabrications, cleaning
and preparing potshells and basement for pot relining. Hard Work.
In 1998, I became an employee (then Capral)
with the potlining team working for Geoff Groves.
Working in this team was entertaining to say the least
with lots of hard working, colourful characters, some
of whom always wanted to settle disagreements the
good old fashioned way.
Just when I thought I had an assured long term
career at the smelter, 20 months down the track, the
pot lining and rebuild teams were summoned to a
meeting in the PTC where we were handed our payout figures and made redundant. Pot Lining and Rebuilds was outsourced to AGRS and a small number
were employed by AGRS and others were redeployed
to other parts of the plant. Eventually, only one or
two were made redundant.
I was offered and accepted the role of Potlining Quality Assurance, reporting to the Pot Reline Coordinator, Andrew Robbins.
This was a very positive change for me, providing exposure to different aspects of the business and
an untold number of learning opportunities. In securing this position, I over exaggerated my computer proficiency and soon found myself in a situation of having
to fluff my way through and learn fast. Fortunately, I
was able to rely on one of my former work mates to
get my skills up to an acceptable level and this really triggered my interest in PC’s, which then opened up a whole
new world for me business -wise and privately. The smelter has provided training in the Microsoft Office Suite, SAP
and some in APICS.
The smelter has been good for me, the training
and development support is the best that I have experienced. The training list is too long to remember but I have
attained a Diploma in Front Line Management and Project Management, certificates for Trainer Assessor and
First Aid with training in Root Cause Analysis and AMPS.
All of this training was a contributing factor to me securing a good post smelter job.
In 2008, the Potlining Coordinator’s role became
vacant and I knew that the Potroom Manager was preparing to advertise this vacancy in the local papers. Eventually I built up enough courage to ask him for a crack at
the job. He agreed to give me a similar but lesser position
on an informal probationary basis which I accepted. By
2009, the Manager was still not convinced that I could do
the complete job and offered me the new staff position
of Potlining Quality Controller and after 6 months of continually pestering him, he formally appointed me to the
position of Pot Reline Coordinator which I still hold today.
My last day is the 14th September and I will be
taking my family to the Gold Coast for a holiday before I
start my new job as Supervisor in a mining services company. This new role is a significant step up from my current role and I am confident that I will be able to meet the
new challenges thanks to the training and development
provided to me by the smelter and potroom management.
... C A S T
by Manager Geoff Wellard
With the announcement to curtail all production at Kurri Kurri came
the challenge for the Casthouse to find alternate ways of producing
sufficient metal units to fulfil customer orders for the remainder of
As a result of the continued reduction of potroom hotmetal units
throughout the curtailment period the only feasible way to get the
metal units up to the correct level was to dramatically increase the
amount of scrap / cold metal being remelted.
For this to become a reality, the casthouse teams worked tirelessly
on streamlining the process of remelting this scrap to increase from
remelting an average of 5 tonne per furnace (prior to curtailment)
to averaging 25 tonne per furnace by the end of the potroom hotmetal production period, with this same level of remelt continuing
until the end of Casthouse production in October, 2012.
This was achieved by continually relying on the teams to work on
innovative ways of safely turning Holding Furnaces into Remelt Furnaces without any financial investment to do so.
The real standout
for me was the way
all casthouse
personnel maturely
accepted the
For the Casthouse curtailment, the key equipment milestones were:
1/ DC1 and Oliver Saw: Closed on 3rd February 2012 (This equipment produced T-Ingot).
2/ Primary Foundry Alloy Caster: Closed on 21st June 2012 (This machine produced Foundry Alloy product for use in the automotive
3/ DC3 Extrusion Ingot Casting Centre: Closed on October 22,
2012. (This casting centre produced Extrusion Ingot in diameters of
178mm, 203mm and 230mm).
As equipment was mothballed the workforce numbers also progressively reduced from 87 employees (pre Line 1 curtailment) to 22
employees (pre DC3 curtailment).
The Casthouse operational results achieved during the curtailment
period were as follows:
Production Volume:
* Extrusion Ingot = 57,764 tonnes (3400 tonnes above Business
* Primary Foundry Alloy = 23783 tonnes (as per Business Plan – all
customer orders fulfilled).
* Extrusion Ingot scrap rate = 6% (as per Business Plan)
Primary Foundry Ally scrap rate = 3% (as per Business Plan)
Although I am extremely proud of the team’s
ability to achieve these results at a time of such
personal uncertainty for everyone, the real
standout for me was the way all casthouse personnel maturely accepted the curtailment decision and continued to act with the same level of
comradery, work ethic, safety focus and mateship that they were renowned for.
On a personal note, when my time at the smelter comes to an end, I will have spent just over
9 years onsite, the majority of which has been
in the Casthouse with short stints in both the
Carbon Plant and a project role.
During this time, I have been overwhelmed by
the amount of personal and professional support that I have received from all levels of the
Grahame Lewis and Matthew Freeman holding the last PFA
I look back and fondly recall my early days as a
Team Coordinator and the way that all of the
Casthouse personnel went out of their way to
assist me in what was a steep learning curve
and transition into the Aluminium Smelting Industry.
I truly believe that if it wasn’t for the support
that I received at that time, I would not have
been fortunate enough to progress into my current position. This same level of support also
continued during my time in the Carbon Plant.
I have never previously worked for an organisation as unique as this smelter where mateship
and mutual respect forms such a solid bond and
I feel honoured to have been associated with
such a great group of individuals. Everyone who
has ever worked within the Casthouse and it’s
associated support areas should be extremely
proud of what they have achieved.
Glenn Keith (foreground) and Kevin Orr (background) Casting
I personally thank all employees for making
Kurri Kurri smelter a great place to work and
wish everyone and their families all the very
best for the future.
The Casthouse in the Kurri smelter contains 3
production lines. Each one was built with the corresponding commissioning of Potlines 1,2 & 3.
DC1 – Built in 1968 it originally contained 3
bottom pour furnaces which included tapping blocks
that feed an ingot casting wheel and a DC machine.
Downstairs were both a Wessex and Wagner Saw.
These were used for range of products including TIngot, Extrusion Ingot, Slab, Anode Rods & Bus Bar. In
the 1980’s a 5kg ingot caster replaced some of this
equipment and added also a small induction furnace.
This was used to produce material for the automotive
market specifically for Japan.
In more recent years the 5kg machine and all
but 1 of the furnaces were decommissioned. DC1 was
rarely used. It acted as a backup machine only for casting pure metal and electrical grade T-Ingot products.
These were cut into approximately 1 metre lengths on
the Oliver Saw.
DC2 / PFA Caster – Built in 1979 consisted of 2
tilting style furnaces feeding a DC machine. It initially
cast the full range of products including Sheet Slabs,
T-Ingot and Extrusion ingot.
In 2006 the current PFA caster was commissioned using the existing furnaces. This machine
produced 10kg remelt ingots for the foundry market
to automotive standards. The products were shipped
internationally but in particular to Asia and South
DC3 was built in 1984/5 and consisted of a
casting pit and 2 tilting type furnaces. It soon became
the main focus of production in the casthouse. It produced only extrusion ingot in a range of diameters
which were later standardised to 3 sizes (178mm – 7”,
203mm - 8”, 230mm – 9”)
On the bottom floor, 2 homogenising furnaces
and coolers were utilized for heat treatment of the
metal. A stacker crane and transfer car was used to
move each load throughout the system. Metal was
then transferred to one of 2 Wagner Saws, one which
cut only short billet and the other capable of both
short billet and log lengths.
In 2006 the Wagner Saws were decommissioned and replaced with a single automated Hertwich Saw capable of cutting product from 500mm to
5500mm in length depending on customer requirements. These products where predominantly used
for architectural and building applications and some
material to automotive standard. Products were sold
to the domestic Australian markets as well as Asian
markets in particular to Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
MY STORY... Adrian ‘Pretzel’ Moore
I started in the Central Store which took the crew
number to 14.
After coming from small business to Alcan, everyone kept telling me to slow down. The job was
great. It was clear from the start the team was well
organised and the training was great.
Two years later, I transferred to the Casting Department after being rejected by the Potline for not
having hot metal experience. They didn’t think I’d
be suitable to work with hot metal.
I can safely say with more than 20 years in the Casting Department, I am suitable for hot metal work.
Working shift rosters from the age of 20 for the past
22 years, my wife married a shift worker and my
children don’t know any different.
The only regret is the number of Christmas’ and
birthdays I missed with the kids.
Hydro is an excellent employer. I can’t speak highly
enough of the place. They have helped to increase
skills and developed a real family-like workforce.
I am treating the redundancy payout as a lotto win
and trying to gain employment to walk straight into.
It looks as though I will with some help from one of
the employers who was at the Expo. If it all works
out as I hope, I will use the payout to get ahead on
my mortgage and help secure my family’s future.
Thanks for the ride Hydro.
Adrian ‘Pretzel’ Moore and Ned ‘Noodles’ Roberts
John Skeen
Working here has been very good for me.
It has helped me buy a house and put my kids
through school. We have a very good lifestyle and I
have met some great people, past and present.
The highlight of my 34 years here was getting the
chance to go to Norway and visit Sunndalsora
smelter and train on their Hertwich saw prior to the
Casthouse upgrade. It was the first time I had ever
flown on a plane and been out of the country. How
good was that.
Job satisfaction was high. I liked coming to work,
even more so in challenging times.
John Skeen
CASTING STAFF: Back: Greg Presland, Glenn Davies & Greg Tweedie
Centre: Darren Thompson, Debbie Parrott, David Latter, Janelle Plain, David Hayes, Denise Stoker, Mick
Edmunds & Geoff Wellard (Manager)
Front: Neil Day, Tony Paul, Craig Murray & John Skeen
A SHIFT: Back: Adrian Moore, Trevor Grills, Brett Johnston, Bradley (John) Butler, Kevin Corby
Front: Daniel Seddon, Paul Todd, Michael Moorcroft
Stephen Condran, Rhys Nixon,
David Latter, William (Bill) Smithers
& Peters Chambers
Billy Skeen, Darrell Harris, Shane
Stapleton, Debbie Parrott &
Denise Stoker
B SHIFT: Back: Justin Kall, Bob Lucchesi, Warren Halton, Dave Miller, Greg Presland, Aaron Burns &
Daniel Olsen
Front: Les Covey, Phil (Wally) Shaw, Jim McMillan, Grahame Lewis
C SHIFT: Back: Aaron Burns, Steve Bailey, Dale Palmer, Steve Gordon, John Van Vorst, Tony Hammond
Front: Shane Paterson, Dale Moxey, Geoff Wellard(Manager), Paul Smith, Bob Parsons, Kyle Williams & Greg Watts
Finishing with Hydro Aluminium
Brenden Gray and Adrian McKee
Adrian McKee (Aids) has passed his time
at Hydro for 24 years, in the Carbon Plant,
Potrooms and the Casting Department.
During his time in the Casting Department
he has been a part of all 3 casting centres
finishing his time on the PFA foundry alloy
Brenden Gray (the under cover boss) has
one of the shortest career histories on “A”
Shift with 10 months. On the 7th of July
2012 he has past his time with us working
at DC3.
We hope you find a new career soon, take
care, stay in touch we promise to bag you
both out behind your back as always.
When Lucky Fought The Bull
The title fight was over and so they turned it off
Now wasn’t that the greatest fight you’ve ever seen
Old Matt he sat there fuming with retirement looming
I saw a better fight then that within this very room
Now gather around my table and I’ll tell you if I’m able
Of a fight I witnessed thirty years ago
When Lucky fought the Bull
Now Kev he liked to hunt the pigs armed with a butter
And blokes would meekly step aside for fear they’d get
in strife
He had that look of confidence a look that said I’m tough
But I was there as witness the day Lucky called his bluff
In the crib room at his table he had a special place
But Lucky was sitting in his chair you should have seen
his face
Move aside you little asshole, we thought he’d have a
Move aside you little asshole or I’ll put you in the freezer
I’d like to be, said Lucky, half as tough as what you think
you are
And if that is your intention you won’t get very far
Kev he went to grab him but all he caught was air
Too quick elusive Lucky had bounded from the chair
Kev he turned and charged like something from Jurassic
While Lucky stood his ground in classic boxers pose
Take another step he said I’m going to smash your nose
Kev roared out in laughter and this is what he said
You better make it a good one or otherwise you’re dead
But Lucky looked him in the eyes and this was his reply
Do you think that I’d be standing here
If I thought some chance I’d die?
Kev advanced that fatal step and so the fight was set
Some dived under tables some tried to place a bet
And I, I was witness and so I tell in prose
How Lucky met the Bulls charge
How he broke the big man’s nose
Kev his face grew scarlet as his blood upon the floor
Blokes they scattered everywhere some right out the
He shook his head and said while sizing up his quarry
I’m going to make you suffer I’m going to make you sorry
Around, around the room they fought with neither giving ground
With only us to referee but Lucky took the round
Kev he sent a savage right that took off with a rush
And if it had connected it would have turned a face to
Another left another right but Lucky slipped inside
And pounded him with punches that hurt the big man’s
A solid punch into the gut, it landed with a crunch
Kev he staggers back a step and heaved up half his lunch
Then like a master butcher Lucky cut him down to size
His fists they flew in tandem and he closed up both his
Now Kev began to stagger’ his dickey knee gave out
And Lucky sent him off to sleep with one almighty clout
If there’s a moral to this story, then don’t be fooled by
Unless some little bloke may break your nose and blacken both your eyes
Now Lucky stood in victory but what a cruel joke
And what a disappointment as from his dream he woke.
By Trevor Grills
D SHIFT: Back: Greg Fisher, Greg Tweedie, Paul Kirtley, Glenn Keith, Paul Fuller, Mick Firth & Shane Copas
Front: Kevin Orr, Rod Lacey, Alan Slade & Matt Freeman
Jamie Toner and Rick Merrick
Craig Wilson
Quirino Minnoza
Domenic Falla
by Barry Arens
Assets and Technical Support Manager
After production is shutdown and the majority of the workforce have moved on, a small team will remain at the Kurri
Kurri smelter. The mandate for this group is to keep the plant
viable for a restart if the economic situation turns around.
This may seem quite a simple task or even boring, until the
details of the task emerge revealing a challenging new chapter in the careers of these team members.
Firstly, the need to stay compliant with all the relevant laws.
Like an old car
parked in the
paddock, so too can
the condition of the
smelter deteriorate
if not looked after
Naturally, this team will have the same safety commitment as has been in place during operations but most of
the existing safety procedures are written for an operating
plant so need to be updated to remain relevant.
Critical plant inspections need to be kept up to date
and registered with Workcover.
The environmental license conditions must remain
in place, so even though there will be no operating emissions the environmental sampling and EPA reporting must
be maintained. The buffer zone also needs to be maintained
to minimise bushfire risk and control of pests and noxious
Financially, the laws around tax compliance and financial reporting are quite complex, particularly as equipment is sold off and the income sources change.
The team must keep the equipment ready for restart.
Like an old car parked in the paddock, so too can the
condition of the smelter deteriorate if not looked after properly. An entire new maintenance strategy is required to keep
the machines alive. Every machine is assessed for potential failure mechanisms while sitting idle and is given a new
strategy; ranging from clean, shutdown and isolate through
to regular test running, lubrication, routine parts replacement and adjustments.
There are sections of the plant that need to keep
running and will keep elements of the current maintenance
program such as the switchyard (our only supply of power to
the site is 132kV), some compressors to supply air to Regain,
pumps associated with irrigation and dam control, site lighting and security systems.
The team is also on the lookout for consequential damage that may result from vermin,
vandalism or another equipment failure - such as
a sump pump failure that allows a switchroom to
Finally, the team must strive towards being cashflow neutral.
The challenge of minimising costs will continue in this period and in much the same way as
the workforce has become accustom, every source
of costs will be scrutinised for lower cost ways of
meeting our objectives.
New sources of revenue will be required
to offset the costs. Income received from having
other businesses lease the facilities will be actively pursued. Cashflow will be bolstered by one off
events as consumables and replaceable assets are
sold off to release the value in the plant. Land sales
or leasing areas of the buffer zone that are not
essential to a restart will also be considered.
A considerable challenge will be the security of the plant and protection from vandalism and
The care and maintenance duration is not known
but for those people who hold a small glimmer of
hope that one day the Kurri Kurri smelter may restart, no decision is a good decision and this can
be extended while ever the Kurri team is not a cost
burden to Hydro. I would like to thank the care and
maintenance team members who have accepted
the challenge to stay on and make a commitment
to the future of the Kurri smelter despite all the uncertainties that go with it.
The care and maintenance team are: Kevin Hill,
Greg Jones, Kerry McNaughton, Mark Pollard, Leanne Pringle, Stephen Roberts, Garrie Stuart and
John Vanvorst.
CANTEEN: Jenny Mackey, Sandra Perkins, Marylin Harris & Vicky McCamley
CENTRAL MAINTENANCE 2: Stephen McAlister, Mark Pollard, Col Nixon, Col Jones, Stephen Forbes, Domenico Falla
& Graham King
CENTRAL MAINTENANCE 3: Rick Merrick, Enner Minoza, Robbie Taylor, Aaron Mahaffey, Darren Phillips, Gavin
Reeves, Craig Wilson & Chris Moore
Jeff Heawood & Anton
Jamie Gill, Tom Locock &
Dave Holmes
SWITCHYARD TEAM: Warrick Javurek, Jason Ross, Jon Phillipp & Bob Chisholm
by Leanne Pringle
Superintendent - Supply
A Procurement Department’s general mandate is to save cost.
This can be achieved through various ways, but the end result is
to return value to the business by lower costs. The Kurri team
has been no different in its mandate and in an extra effort under
tough economic times, implemented various additional control
spending strategies to assist in controlling and reducing cost.
Some of these were not popular amongst our colleagues and
workmates, however requisition workflow, tendering above
$5000, a drive on cataloguing, reduced sole sourcing to name a
few were ultimately ingrained into the workforce.
Back: Peter Huckfeldt, Ray Wethered, Russell Corbett, Kathy Fitzpatrick
Front: Jodie Ellis, Graeme Challen, Leanne Pringle & Roberta Tkalec
These strategies at times meant moving away from long term
suppliers of products & services to other lower cost options,
a reality of fighting for our survival. Whilst these helped to
reduce the costs as did the Cost Improvement Programme
conducted with suppliers in 2011, with other factors working
against us, it just wasn’t enough.
In June of this year, with the announcement of full closure
came the daunting task of winding up all our contracts for
services and inventory. The Procurement Team needed to
change their mindset when reading contracts. Usually they
were read in a mindset of mitigating the risk to the plant for
non-performance or delays by the supplier so that the plant
didn’t stop and certainly not in the view of Kurri closing down.
This took some time to adjust to, and at times was quite confronting. The reality of what was happening was bought to
the fore. However it has allowed the team to build competence in Contract Management and formulation. The team
have the experience to cover all contingencies now.
On top of this was managing a warehouse with an unknown
requirement. Automatic ordering once stock reached minimum levels was no longer appropriate, yet we still had a requirement for certain items. Minimum/maximum stock levels became irrelevant. The skill set of the Procurement Team
and the operational experience of the warehouse personnel
successfully adapted our processes & routines to accommodate this changing requirement without jeopardising the
plant that whilst winding down, was still operational. A great
effort seeing no-one had closed down a plant before.
Peter Huckfeldt
Our suppliers during this wind down period have, as always,
been open, co-operative & supportive of our situation. This
is a testament to the relationships forged between not only
Hydro & Suppliers Companies, but between individuals in
both organisations. With Hydro personnel now moving to
other organisations, I am certain these relationships will continue in some form where appropriate, but within a new
business environment.
Overall, during the process our colleagues, whilst having their
own closure activities, have provided the Procurement team
the support in technical aspects to assist with winding down
our contracts. Without this support our work would have
been more difficult than it already was. It was comforting to
see people working together even when the common goal
was not a pleasant one.
I am proud of the Procurement Team’s efforts during this trying time and over my time in procurement, and thank them
for their dedication and professionalism.
I wish all Hydro employees the best with the future and hope
that we all cross paths again.
Ray Wethered, Peter Huckfeldt and Jodie Ellis
The Finance Department is responsible for discharging the company’s tax and financial accounting/statutory reporting as well
as management reporting and accounts receivable/payable. It is
also responsible for facilitating and running the annual budget
process. And it was during the budget process in the autumn
of 2011 the severe financial situation of the plant first became
apparent. We had all seen the falling LME and increasing AUD
putting downward pressure on our income side. The budget
process revealed a continuous upward pressure on raw material prices and fixed cost for 2012, further adding to the difficult
situation. Based on this, an EBIT and cash flow matrix was made
showing financial outcomes for different combinations of LME
and AUD. This picture showed the plant was highly vulnerable
under these circumstances.
Manager - Eyvind Roneid
The budget process triggered the first set of redundancies at the
plant. Relining was also stopped in a clear aim to further reduce
costs and get into a cash neutral position. A further deterioration
in LME/AUD led to the decision to curtail Line 1 early January.
FINANCE TEAM: Leesa Jackson, Paula Stewart, Craig Smith, Megan Crowfoot, Stephen Roberts, Eyvind Roneid,
Megan Rowe & Ellynor Janes (front)
The decision to fully close the plant was taken early
June. (The evolving European debt crisis coupled
with a weak world economy in general and a high
inventory level of aluminium further decreased LME
prices towards the decision to close).
The main tasks and responsibilities of the Finance
team have in general not changed during the curtailment and closure process. The external compliance
responsibility of tax and financial accounting stays
the same as long as there is economic activity/transactions and the legal entity still exists.
As mentioned, the tasks and responsibilities of the
Finance Department are not linked to production of
aluminium but to economic transactions in general.
Thus, even after the production has ceased, there
will still be transactions related to the mothballed
plant (wages/salaries, payment of vendors, environmental liabilities, sale of raw material/inventory/assets).
In some areas, the complexity and thus the work
load has actually increased. The number of accounting issues discussed with Corporate Accounting during the curtailment and closure process confirms
that. Still, the reduction in manning has been made
possible by moving the emphasis from a detailed, to
a more high level management reporting (internal)
in cooperation with Primary Metal.
In order to still be able to discharge the companys
obligations for finance and tax going forward, a project has been initiated to look at how the finance
function can be operated in a mothballed state. The
project aims to utilise existing resources at other
sites within Norsk Hydro, for example the accounting centre at Sunndalsora in Norway. A successful
outcome will depend on building system interfaces
and transferring of local knowledge and processes.
Finally, I would like to thank the finance team for the
effort they’ve put in and the flexibility shown in very
difficult times for all of us.
Tax Accountant
Accounts Payable Clerk/Officer
I started with the smelter in the Finance Department in August 2011 and after the first month
I felt extremely grateful to have been given such a
wonderful opportunity in a large diversified company which exhibited exceptional values for customers,
suppliers and staff. Everybody on site was extremely
friendly and couldn’t have done more to make me
feel welcome.
My role at the smelter gave me a medium to
high level of job satisfaction as it was a challenging
role with interesting and varied task assignments. I
was a part of a professional and proactive team working collaboratively towards organisational goals.
Working at the smelter has definitely enriched my social and family life. The Social Club efforts and commitment to staff Xmas party was greatly appreciated by family. Starting work here, earlier
than I did in previous jobs, allowed quality time with
kids in the afternoon.
Working at the smelter has been good for
me. It gave me the opportunity to become acquainted with some fantastic people. I have had some
great times; a challenging and enjoyable role which
has been good for my self development.
Having been made redundant with the mothballing of the smelter, I plan to continue to work and
live in the local area.
Bob Grandidge and Les Jordan interviewed
me for the position of Accounts Payable Clerk. They
focused on sick leave history and I believe that I got
the job only because I had a good attendance history
in my previous employment.
I initially felt like an outsider as I was not a
local and I had taken a position that another team
member felt entitled to. It took a couple of months
before I was accepted by the team.
We always tried to bridge the perceived gap
between the Finance Team and the production
I have been doing basically the same job for
my 22 years at the smelter. I have thoroughly enjoyed
my job at the smelter, the team environment and being employed by Alcan, Capral, VAW and Hydro.
The importance of job satisfaction has been
strongly promoted under the ownership by Hydro
and this support has been a key factor in me obtaining a great deal of satisfaction from my job.
We have been encouraged to give input into
the organisation of our team and how it achieves its
objectives. Some of the major finance projects that I
have enjoyed taking key roles in are the implementation of: Electronic Banking, GST procedures, SAP, SAP
workflow and Local Invoice Verification.
For me, working at the smelter has been a
great experience and it has been good for me.
My last day will be October 5, 2012 and at
this stage, I do not know what I will do for a job.
Industrial Hurricane
by Paul O’Brien
Site Senior Delegate
Kurri Kurri smelter has been through industry downturns and difficult times before and overcame them.
We were presented with our biggest challenge in
2012 with high fixed costs, no affordable power contract extension, low LME and strong Australian dollar
presenting the perfect storm for Kurri that was impossible to navigate.
The effort from the Kurri workforce to beat this industrial hurricane was remarkable but the force was too
great. Unfortunately there were too many factors out
of our control.
We could dwell on the regrets and sadness of a plant
closure like this but it is much more proper to remember and celebrate the good times, the friendships, the
solidarity, the hard fight that was fought and the many
accomplishments that were achieved at our smelter.
Potroom process and amperage improvements increased annual production from 154,000 tonnes from
when I started work at the smelter to 181,000 tonnes
using the same equipment.
The effort from
the Kurri workforce to beat this
hurricane was
remarkable, but
the force was too
Our Casthouse continued to break production records
and the Carbon Department were credited with making the best anode in the Hydro system… not a bad
epitaph. But it’s the friendly, dedicated people and
the family atmosphere that feature at Kurri Kurri and
I’ll miss that the most.
From a union perspective, it’s always hard to find the
right balance between fixed cost reduction and protecting the rights and conditions of members during
cost cutting and restructuring but the union members
and delegates at Kurri did a great job with this.
Delegates from both The Australian Workers’ Union
and The Electrical Trades Union worked hard to improve the cost situation at the plant while still ‘fighting the good fight’ and I thank them for their flexibility and support to me over the years doing things in a
cooperative union style.
A decade ago, industrial relations at our smelter
were strained at times to say the least and tested
the resolve of the members and management to
breaking point.
Northern Regions Branch for their professionalism, and undeniable support and assistance to me
during this time…they were always there when I
needed them.
Although the road has never been easy battling
through tough campaigns and a thousand sticky
situations, during my tenure as Site Senior Delegate for The Australian Workers’ Union, I found
corporate Hydro and Kurri Kurri Senior Management to be generally fair and Hydro a decent and
generous company to work for.
My style was quite different to my 4 predecessors
and would have had officials a little concerned
and bewildered in the beginning. I didn’t quite fit
into the stereotypical union leader’s role but the
branch always stuck by me and we achieved a lot
for our members.
There will be life after Kurri Kurri!
Because of this, and the professional respectful relationship that has been built between unions and
management at our smelter, I feel Kurri Kurri has
set the benchmark for industrial relations in Australia and the unique relationship between unions
and company at our plant has been the envy of
many other companies for a long time.
I thank all my friends and colleagues at Hydro Kurri
Kurri for the mateship I’ve enjoyed over the past
19 years and I thank all my international ‘mates’
from Neuss in Germany, all the Hydro Norwegian
smelters and the Industri Energi Union in Norway
for making me feel so welcome when I visited your
I feel we could have taken it to even greater levels
if the situation were different.
Thank you also to my European Work Council
(EWC) associates from the Slovakian and Brazilian
unions for your friendship.
In closing, I thank all my union ‘brothers and sisters’ at Kurri Kurri and especially the AWU Delegates for their dedication and support to me over
the last 4 years, 10 months and 23 days of my term
as Site Senior Delegate.
I thank the AWU Newcastle, Central Coast and
I’ve been in this situation a few times in my life
now where a company closes its doors and I truly
believe the old saying, “When one door closes, another one opens”. I wish everyone affected by this
closure the very, very best in life and great prosperity… there will be life after Kurri Kurri!
In 1911 The Federated Ironworkers Association
(FIA), an amalgamation of smaller iron and steel
industry unions was registered and formed with
a membership of approximately 5,000.
The FIA amalgamated with the Australasian Society of Engineers, a union of metal
industry tradesmen, to form the Federation of
Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees (FIMEE) in 1991 and FIMEE amalgamated with the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)
in 1994 and became the AWU-FIMEE amalgamated union growing its membership to a phenomenal 160,000 nationally. It’s most significant change to date.
The AWU-FIMEE changed its name to
the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in 1995
the same year that Capral became owners of
the Kurri Kurri smelter.
Robert ‘Bob’ Smith was the first Site Delegate at Kurri Kurri way back
when we were the old Federated Ironworkers Association (FIA). Bobby
Smith started at Alcan Kurri Kurri in 1969 and became a member of the
Central Sub-Branch of the FIA in 1975. The FIA amalgamated with the
Artificial Fertilisers and Chemical Workers Union that year.
Cartoons - by Paul O’Brien
The inimitable Mark Stoker began working for Alcan Kurri Kurri in 1973 and took
over the FIA Site Senior Delegate position in 1976. Mark created the full time SSD
role, was elected on to the Alcan Sub-Branch in 1979 and founded the Welfare
Fund. Mark left the Kurri smelter in 1988 and became an AWU official based in the
FIA Newcastle Branch. Mark passed away in September, 2009.
Barry Smith started at the smelter in 1979 and moved into the FIA Site Senior Delegate position when Mark Stoker left in 1988. Barry saw three union name changes
and a company name change during his 11 year term as union leader at Kurri Kurri.
Barry left Capral Kurri Kurri in 1999.
Barry Smith’s right hand man, Alfred ‘Joe’ Carstairs took over from Barry Smith after
Barry retired in 1999 and led the AWU at Kurri through some difficult times during
the early 2000’s aided and abetted by Officials, Mark Stoker and John Keen. Joe and
Mark were an inseparable partnership for 9 years posing formidable opponents for
any adversary. During his time in office, Capral were bought out by German company VAW in 2000 and Hydro became owners in 2002. Joe started at Kurri Kurri in
1978 and retired in January, 2008 due to ill health.
Joe Carstairs passed the baton to Potroom Operator since 1993, Paul O’Brien in
2008 after a site ballot elected Paul as the new AWU Site Senior Delegate. Paul relocated the full time SSD office to the site central location of the 26A Engineering
building when the ABB contract was terminated and the building became available.
Norwegian CEO, Knut Austreid included a second office, AWU meeting room and
amenities in the AWU facility. In 2010, Paul introduced the 4 AWU Department Senior Delegate positions and formalised the AWU structure in the 2010 Enterprise
Agreement. Paul is currently the AWU Site Senior Delegate.

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