x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

EMAL chief decides to step down

The chief executive of Emirates Aluminium (EMAL), Duncan Hedditch, will step down early next year.

The chief executive of Emirates Aluminium (EMAL), Duncan Hedditch, will step down early next year, the firm announced, with the first phase of its smelter on track to begin producing metal ahead of schedule. EMAL's US$5.7 billion (Dh20.93bn) plant, a city of half-built structures at Taweelah, was more than 70 per cent complete and would probably start initial production several weeks ahead of its original April start date, said Mr Hedditch.

EMAL, a joint venture between Dubai Aluminium and the Abu Dhabi Government's Mubadala Development, would achieve full commercial production of more than 700,000 tonnes per year by next December, he said. Mr Hedditch, who will remain as an adviser at EMAL, will be replaced by Saeed al Mazrooei, a senior vice president at Dolphin Energy with a background in the Dubai natural gas industry. Mr Hedditch said it had been his plan when he took the job to leave after the company began production, and that he would return to his native Australia to pursue other business interests.

"This has been my baby for three or four years, and it's very hard to hand it over," he said. A decision on whether to double EMAL's production capacity to 1.4 million tonnes per year, making it the largest smelter in the world, appears to have been delayed. Mr Hedditch said yesterday the company's board would probably decide by the middle of next year, after previously saying there would be a decision by the end of this year.

"Even with all the events in the world economy, phase two looks as good as it did," he said. "The issue is timing: we have some decisions to make on technology, and its effects on timing." cstanton@thenational.ae