- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2015

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Swiss commodities firm Glencore has announced the permanent closure of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. more than five years after it last produced aluminum, CFAC spokesman Haley Beaudry said Tuesday.

“The decision by CFAC to permanently close was a difficult one, but after deep consideration, management is confident it is in the best interests of the community,” Beaudry said. “This is the next step in making the property productive once again, and CFAC remains open and committed to procuring redevelopment interest.”

Glencore plans to demolish some buildings on the 2,500-acre site, Beaudry said.

The plant, located along the banks of the Flathead River just north of Columbia Falls, opened in 1955 and was initially owned by the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. Atlantic Richfield Co. purchased Anaconda in 1977, becoming the plant’s second owner. Montana Aluminum Investors Corp. bought CFAC in 1985 and Swiss commodities firm Glencore bought the plant in 1999. It was shut down in October 2009.

At its peak, the plant employed 1,500 people. Since 2009, a handful of workers have maintained the facility.

The decision to close was due to raw material costs, worldwide competition, more modern facilities and low aluminum prices combined to force the closure, Beaudry said.

“While this decision marks the end of aluminum production in Montana, it also paves the way for the possibility of finding alternative uses for the strategic property,” Beaudry said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality are studying cleanup options after an EPA study found cyanide, arsenic, lead and fluoride in the groundwater in and around the plant. The EPA has said it qualifies as a Superfund site. Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester support the listing, but CFAC last week said it opposed the listing, arguing it would slow cleanup and hinder redevelopment.

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