SYDNEY, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Australia's prime minister and the premier of Victoria have announced a multi-million dollar package to save a smelting plant in western Victoria.
PM Malcolm Turnbull was joined by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in announcing a 173 million-U.S. dollar package that will keep the Alcoa aluminum smelting plant in Portland, in far-western Victoria, open.
The rescue package, to which the Federal Government contributed 22 million U.S. dollars, will save thousands of Victorian jobs.
The smelter, which is owned and operated by American giant Alcoa, has been operating at one third of its capacity since a transmission fault cut power to its potlines in December with many staff forced to take leave over the Christmas period.
In announcing the package in Portland on Friday, Turnbull said his government was committed to helping Alcoa and its employees get back on their feet.
"We've seen all those pots that were frozen and how they'll be cleaned out, starting today," Turnbull said.
"And that is enabled by a (22 million US dollar) grant that the Federal Government is making to Alcoa to enable you to get those lines back into production, to get this plant operating at the full potential, the full capacity that will be maintained by the company in order to secure and retain the grant that is being made ... right through till 2021."
Greg Hunt, Australia's industry minister, and Wade Noonan, his Victorian counterpart, travelled to Alcoa's New York headquarters in December to negotiate the future of the smelting plant.
Alcoa employs approximately 2,000 people in the region, almost a quarter of Portland's population, making it easily the region's biggest employer and taxpayer.
David Thomas, a delegate from the Australian Workers Union (AWU), said even with the money it would take a significant amount of time to restore the plant to its full operating capacity.
"It can't just happen overnight," Thomas said.
"There's different scenarios that management are playing out, but to get back to full production is going to take at least six to eight months."