Sohar Aluminium's smelter comes on line

Oman's Sohar Aluminium, 20 per cent owned by a unit of Rio Tinto, started production at its 350,000 tonne-per-year smelter yesterday, the company said.

The smelter will take six months to reach full capacity, the company said in a statement, without giving current output. The $2.4 billion (Dh8.8bn) Sohar Aluminium joint venture is 20 per cent owned by Alcan, the Canadian aluminium producing unit of Australia-based Rio Tinto. Oman Oil Company and the Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority each hold a 40 per cent stake in the project.

Sohar is one of only three aluminium producers in the Gulf Arab region.

More producers are looking to enter the market shrugging off record-high global energy prices as they capitalise on cheap gas-generated electricity and a construction boom to boost world market share.

Dubal said last week it had increased output by 12.6 per cent year-on-year in 2007 to 890,000 tonnes.