LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - Aluminium smelters in the Middle East and North Africa continue to produce metal despite rising political unrest, with alumina reaching plants and finished metal finding its way out, traders and producers say.
The region is becoming an increasingly important source of aluminium, which is used in transport and packaging. This year, output could rise to just over 4 million tonnes, or 9 percent of global output. "There has been no disruption so far as we understand," one physical aluminium trader said.
Bahrain, home to Aluminium Bahrain's (Alba) ALBH.BH 860,000 tonne per year (tpy) Knuff smelter, is the main focus at present, and the government crackdown on protests has raised fears of a regional conflict.
"But they (Alba) are operating, they say. The danger is that power may be interrupted or alumina shipments can't come in, but they have their own port," the trader said. "If it (violence) doesn't escalate, it should be OK."
On Tuesday, Alba said it was in full operation despite weeks of protests and the government's declaration of martial law.
Alumina traders said they had not heard of any disruptions to shipments of the material to feed Middle Eastern smelters.
"I haven't heard anything about any delays in alumina shipments there. I've not heard any rumours," said one.
"We're not seeing anything in the market at the moment that would cause problems," said another.
In addition to Abal, other aluminium producers in the region said they were operating normally.
"We have not registered a significant impact," a spokesman for Norsk Hydro (NHY.OL: Quote) told Reuters in an e-mail, referring to the Qatalum smelter in Qatar in which it holds a 50 percent
The plant, which came on stream in late 2009, is expected to produce around 500,000 tonnes of primary aluminium this year.
It has a 585,000 tonnes per year design capacity and is expected to reach full production in June. Qatar Petroleum holds the other 50 percent interest.
When asked by e-mail whether regional unrest had had an impact on its production, shipments or deliveries of alumina, Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL) said: "No, it has not."
The company said its main markets were in the Far East, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and North America.
DUBAL owns the Jebel Ali smelter in Dubai and a 50 percent stake in the EMAL plant in Abu Dhabi.
"The total finished metal production to be offered to the market by DUBAL and EMAL is expected to exceed 1.76 million metric tonnes in 2011," the company said.